For those of us who grew up in the ‘space age’ with rockets and moon landings and space walks, it’s hard to imagine a world where this no longer takes place. Unfortunately, with the current space policy, that is what is happening.
Books like this, Spacewalker, by and about our astronauts, are important historical records of a rare breed of explorers. Astronaut Jerry L. Ross was one of those fortunate explorer/adventurers.
Ross starts his book informing the reader that he had dreams of going to space at a very early age and that most of his life was spent with his goal of going to space in mind. He details what appears to be an honest account of what he sacrificed and missed out on in his single-focussed goal of being an astronaut; family life. Yet, probably due more to his wife’s understanding and patience, he was able to retire from his career and still have a devoted family.
I found much of the first half of the book a bit slow and ‘simple.’ Too often I felt that the author (whether Jerry L. Ross or John Norberg I don’t know) was talking down to the reader. Explaining simple facts in too much detail while missing out on some of the more opportune moments to give the reader a little insight. (And I think we get it… many astronauts came out of Purdue University … I think we were told that many times.) I’ve seen other reviewers comment that the book has a very conversational tone, which is true, but I do feel it was conversational to a middle school student. This is not a bad thing. It IS our youth we need to get invested in the space program after all.
Once Ross gets to NASA and works with other astronauts, the book really picked up interest for me. I enjoyed seeing the ‘back-end’ of missions through the eyes of someone who was there. And when he gets the opportunity to fly himself, I didn’t want to put the book down.
Experiencing lift-off, viewing the Earth from space, putting on a space-walking suit, working with tools wearing gloves that don’t have a lot of flexibility, all through Ross’s eyes was a delight. Even his part of the Shuttle Challenger disaster (his job was to be with the families of the people aboard the shuttle as it came back to Earth) was interesting to experience.
Despite what I felt was a slow, or simple start, I really enjoyed this refreshing and honest look at the space program from a man who was devoted both to the scientific cause of space exploration, and to his Christian faith — two subjects that don’t always seem to go together (or at least are not typically expressed together too often). I enjoyed it enough that once I was done reading my review copy, I purchased a hard-cover edition and gave it to my fifteen year old son who seems equally focussed on working for NASA and exploring Mars. I’m hoping that my son can see Ross’s drive and apply some of his own toward his goals.
Thank you Jerry L. Ross for the work and the experience.
Looking for a good book? You’ve found one here!
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Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA’s Record-Setting Frequent Flyer
author: Jerry L. Ross and John Norberg
publisher: Purdue University Press
hardcover, 300 pages