Spaceflight Insider

Book Review: It’s a Question of Space

Clayton Anderson spent almost 167 days in space, and about 38 hours conducting extra-vehicular activities (EVA). Photo Credit: NASA

Clayton Anderson spent almost 167 days in space, and about 38 hours conducting extra-vehicular activities (EVA). Photo Credit: NASA

There have been a wealth of books written about astronauts’ experiences in space. A good many of these are accounts detailing what transpired behind the scenes. Few, however have contained actual questions asked by the average citizen as well as the response. Former NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson works to address this in his latest offering – It’s a Question of Space.

Cover art for It's a Question of Space. Image Credit: University of Nebraska Press

Cover art for It’s a Question of Space. Image Credit: University of Nebraska Press

SpaceFlight Insider: You mention Quora in your latest book, we were wondering if you pulled questions from your other social media accounts? (Twitter, Facebook) 

Anderson: Nope.  As far as I can remember (I’m old!), all questions originated on the platform known as Quora.com. I do know that my social media settings are such that any time I answer a question on Quora.com, that answer is also posted to both Twitter and Facebook. Ahhh… the joys of social media!”

SpaceFlight Insider: What was the impetus behind writing It’s a Question of Space? Did you feel the questions asked would be of interest to the general public and then decided to share the answers to a broader audience?  

Anderson: “I knew that former astronaut Mike Mullane had written and published “Do Your Ears Pop in Space?” in 1997.  Knowing that –coupled with the fact that the internet and social media had grown by leaps and bounds– I thought it was time for an update that would definitely interest the general public and a broad audience.  Since he was a “shuttle guy,” there was a tremendous interest in all aspects associated with living and working in outer space on the International Space Station platform.  I have been answering questions on Quora.com since early in 2014 (shortly after retiring from NASA) and I really enjoy it.  And I don’t answer just “any” question.  I look for those where I have an actual “dog in the hunt,” i.e., those questions where I can offer my personal perspective and experiences versus simply regurgitating technical information discovered through research.  In addition, the feedback I was receiving told me that folks around the world were really enjoying my answers as well, and  that my efforts were generating a ton more questions!  

“So, with the understanding of Mullane’s book premise, I thought it would be fun (and not too difficult) to turn my Q and A’s on Quora.com into an engaging, interesting, and educational book.  Unfortunately, during the time I was negotiating my idea with my publisher (the University of Nebraska Press), former astronaut Tom Jones came out with “Ask the Astronaut (Smithsonian Books, 2016).”  Pouring more salt into that wound, the UK’s astronaut Tim Peake would follow shortly with “Ask An Astronaut (Century Books, 2017).”  I guess it helps to have big publishers with lots of money and clout if you want your book published quickly!  In any event, this book is a bit different.  The majority of my answers are not technical, they are anecdotal.  They are written in a humorous –and easy to understand—style.  The idea is to give folks the REAL stories about life in space.  I hope folks LOVE it… I do!”

SpaceFlight Insider: (Sarcastically) – Is the Earth flat and does NASA pay actors to pretend that Australia is real?

Clayton Anderson can be seen in the upper right of this crew portrait taken during the STS-131 mission. From upper left, commander Alan Poindexter, Stephanie Wilson, Anderson, Naoko Yamazaki, Richard Mastracchio. Dorothy M. Metcalf-Lindenburger and James Dutton. Photo Credit: NASA

Clayton Anderson can be seen in the upper right of this crew portrait taken during the STS-131 mission to the International Space Station. From upper left to right, commander Alan Poindexter, Stephanie Wilson, Anderson, Naoko Yamazaki, Richard Mastracchio. Dorothy M. Metcalf-Lindenburger and James Dutton. The mission was launched on April 5, 2010 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo Credit: NASA

Anderson: “Sure it’s flat!  I’m waiting for my check to come in, since someone on Quora.com wanted to know if I was being paid to support the ‘Earth is round’ conspiracy!”

SpaceFlight Insider: What demographic did you aim this book toward?  

Anderson: “The book is targeted (at the suggestion of the publisher) for young adults.  However, adults will also find it fun and educational.  And it’s a must for teachers…,  as my STS-131 crew mate (and former High School teacher) Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger points out in her blurb on the book’s back cover: “… As a teacher trying to relate the relevant topics to students and fuel their curiosity, I would keep a copy of this book on my desk!”

SpaceFlight Insider: After 30 years at NASA, what would you tell those looking skyward and dreaming of becoming space-flyers themselves?  

Anderson: “I would give them four pieces of advice (and they are not be limited to space-flyer wannabees) with the understanding that they are “…just like me”: 

  1. Have a dream,
  2. Persevere,
  3. You don’t have to be a genius, and
  4. Be proud of who you are.

SpaceFlight Insider: Thanks so much for providing our readers with a ‘sneak peek’ into your latest literary work!

Anderson: “My pleasure! Thanks for the opportunity.”

Known as “Astro Clay” on his various social media accounts, It’s a Question of Space is the latest book Anderson has produced. His previous works include: The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut and A is for Astronaut: Blasting through the Alphabet.

His 150-day tour of duty on the International Space Station more than provided Anderson with the experience necessary to open the door about this subject to the general public. In so doing theses readers are allowed to vicariously share in his adventures. For this reason alone, the book is a spectacular read.

With numerous photos and illustrations, It’s a Question of Space is perfectly suited for those taking their first steps into studying the art of space flight and is a great addition to any aerospace enthusiast’s private library.

It’s a Question of Space is 224 pages in length and is published by the University of Nebraska Press. The book retails for $16.95 in the U.S. and $25.50 in Canada.

 

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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

Thanks for the kind words! Hope everyone loves “It’s a Question of Space!”

As usual with SFI, you have again labelled an interview with the author as a review.

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