Most of us would agree that work can sometimes feel like it lasts longer than a regular 5-day week. But what if you couldn’t leave work? NASA astronaut Scott Kelly spent 340 days orbiting in space, the longest an American astronaut has ever spent in space. In his book coming out in October, ENDURANCE, he reveals that it was not one big discovery that was the focus of his work, but all of the planned projects that he performed over those 340 days.

But one of the most fascinating projects will probably take years to analyze: the genetic differences that will appear between Kelly, and his twin brother Mark, who remained on Earth. While initial studies prove some interesting things, it will probably be years before the full extent of the data is understood. You can read a short excerpt from the book right here.

The excerpt puts you into the mindset of someone who is totally focused on his work, and not only enjoys it, but has learned how to better live on our planet now that he’s back home.

What do you think—would you enjoy living in space for that long?

To the Moon…

matt-benson-9223Just a little fun for our first Frivolous Friday post of March! SpaceX, the company that is planning on sending a manned mission to Mars in the future, has just announced that  it will send TWO people to the moon in 2018.

Now, before you start packing your bags, the two individuals have already been chosen, and they have paid a “significant” deposit to make the trip. While it won’t actually land on the moon, the SpaceX flight will last about a week, and will allow the participants lots of time to ponder life in space.

This flight will launch near Cape Canaveral, from the same launch pad as the Apollo missions. This will be the first visit to the moon in 45 years.

Would you pay to go to the moon?

Space Talk, Anyone?

LEAVING HOMEAre you an amateur astronomer? We’re hosting a fascinating talk here at the library on Monday, January 18th starting at 6:30pm, with local astronomer, Frank Hitchens.

He’ll give a 60-minute talk about space and our fascination with exploration. Weather permitting, we’ll have telescope time to look at the moon, which will be perfect for viewing if the weather cooperates.

Registration is required, so call us at 257-2702 to get your name on the list. This is a free seminar, as part of our Life-Long Learning Series. Spaces are limited.

New Horizons

Today is the day New Horizons will make its closest swing by Pluto, and the world is waiting for the photos and information. It’s going to be an amazing day!

NHHopkinsPoster_letterSize-page-001If you’ve been following NASA’s delve into the deepest parts of our Universe, it’s been a long time coming. Launched in 2006, New Horizons is the first spacecraft to reach Pluto and the Kuiper Belt…the farthest reaches of our Solar System. While it won’t land on Pluto, it is tasked with taking photos and uploading as much information to be transferred back to NASA as possible. We are finally going to see what this planet—and then non-planet—is all about.

Last week, only 10 days before the final pass, New Horizons had a bit of a technical issue which resulted in no information being sent to NASA for almost a 90 minute period. They were forced to shut down the main computer system in order to figure out the problem, but for a while, it was unclear if they’d be able to get it functioning in time to take photos or send back any information at all by the time today rolled around. Thankfully, the amazing brains at NASA managed to figure out the glitch and get New Horizons back on track.

You can read all about the mission, future missions, and what they hope to discover about Pluto at NASA’s New Horizons page right here.

For weeks, NASA has been answering fantastic questions posted by people on their Facebook page, on Twitter and through email. Questions like, “Why is it just passing by and not landing?” (Watch this quick video to find out! Hint: it has something to do with fuel.), and “How big or how small is Pluto?” (answer: it’s only about half the width of the United States).

We have lots of books about space in the library, as well as NASA, and specifically, Pluto. And if you’d like to have your own New Horizons Plutopalooza party to celebrate (maybe a fun event for the kids?), check out the information NASA has compiled on their website, complete with printable stickers, posters and more.

plutoHappy fly-by, New Horizons!  We can’t wait to see what you find!

The Martian

One of the most exciting books I read last year was THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir, and now, it’s going to be a movie released at the end of 2015, starring Matt Damon.

18007564THE MARTIAN is about a crew of astronauts who are living and working on Mars, trying to establish the means for others to eventually inhabit the planet. But when a powerful dust storm forces them to leave suddenly, one of the astronauts–Mark Watney—is believed to be dead, and is left on the planet alone.

NASA discovers he’s still alive only after it’s too late for his crew to return for a rescue mission. So now, the world watches as Mark Watney struggles to survive while NASA scrambles to put together a rescue mission that will be years in the future.

I loved this book, even while the opening was quite technical and a little tedious at times, Weir put together a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering if they can save Watney in time. I”m very excited about the star-studded cast for the movie-version out in November of this year. This is sci-fi without the creatures and hyper-speed, totally plausible if we could get people there safely in the first place.

Have you read this novel, and are you anticipating the movie release?

Need a Little Space?

With the blockbuster GRAVITY still in theatres, and a year filled with fascinating videos and tweets from the International Space Station, the world can’t seem to get enough of space and astronauts. So, it seems fitting that we’re heading into a new year with plenty more sci-fi action. And I couldn’t be happier.

I wasn’t lucky enough to make it out to one of the many book signings he did in Ottawa in December, but I managed to pick up Chris Hadfield‘s book AN ASTRONAUT’S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH here at the library when it came in. I followed @Cmdr_Hadfield on Twitter the entire time he was leading Expedition 35 on the ISS earlier this year, and couldn’t get enough of his witty, interesting and educational tweets. So you can imagine, I was really looking forward to reading this book.

An Astronaut's Guide to Life in Space

I have to admit, I’m not exactly sure if this was meant to be an autobiography or a self-help/inspirational book. At the outset, Hadfield describes his life as a young boy and the choices he consciously makes to one day become an astronaut–even though it seems impossible (there is no Canadian space program, and NASA only considered American’s for their program at the time). I loved hearing about his wise choices as a young person, always asking himself “what would an astronaut do?”, even when the debate was something as simple as staying up late or not.

Similarly, the details of life in space, no matter what mission he was on, were always fascinating. From quarantine regimens to water filtration to suit discomfort, everything is covered. His accounts are well written and full of his trademark humour. If you’re looking for a great read about life in space, this book will not disappoint.

My only negative thought about AN ASTRONAUT’S GUIDE is that it feels at times like he’s trying to prove that he’s a great astronaut, and a great person on top of it all. He’s an extremely confident person, and so he should be. It’s amazing what he’s accomplished in his life, but he seems to want to make sure the reader knows this. For example, he tells a short story about spending time during one mission untangling cords in order for a video feed to broadcast back to Earth. Great. He got it working, and it’s a super example of how the astronauts must work together, sometimes doing menial tasks, to accomplish their goals on each Expedition. But then he mentions offhand that he never told anyone he did this, just went about the job until it was done, because not everything needs to be recognized as an accomplishment. Except that he wrote about it in the book. So, if he didn’t want recognition for doing it, wouldn’t he have left it out of the book altogether?

Unfortunately, after a while, I got a little tired of reading about all the great and simple ways he manages to excel in his life and his job through constant introspection and the humble support he gives his fellow astronauts and team. It not only made me feel like he was constantly bragging about how great his life is, but also made me feel pretty inferior in my day to day life.

His motivational ideas could be quite inspirational for the right person, and anyone gleaning just one great idea from this book will probably see a big difference in their life because of it. I only wish he’d stuck to the mechanics and observations of space travel and life as an astronaut, and left his personal ideals somewhat in the background. I would have sailed through the book if that had been the case.

Keeping with the space theme, I couldn’t pass this book on the shelf without picking it up: Lily Koppel’s THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB.  Koppel details the lives of the other important people involved in space travel…..the women left behind. I can’t wait to crack this open and start reading!


Maybe it’ll keep me going until we receive our copy of Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN in 2014, or even Rachel Searle’s middle grade adventure, THE LOST PLANET.

spacespaceThere will always be an interest in space, and I hope, many more books on the topic to come!

Give the man some Space!

For Frivolous Friday, it’s time we went to space for a while!

Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield is currently living on the International Space Station as the Commander of Expedition 35. He is the first Canadian Commander of  a mission to the ISS, and although the five month stay is almost over, he’s been more active in space than some people are here on Earth.  If you haven’t been following his frequent posts on Twitter and YouTube, you’ve been missing some fascinating stuff!

The official website for the Canadian Space Agency boasts a lot of interesting information about the mission and the studies being done on board the ISS. The science studies include a look at the dangers of radiation exposure during long-term missions as well as the effects of weightlessness in space during that same extended period, as well as many smaller experiments.   But Hadfield has been busy doing his own “studies” in space, usually after prompts from school children he’s been interacting with during the stay. For example, he recently talked about making a peanut butter and jam sandwich in space, which isn’t as simple as it might sound. 

One of the funniest things is the photo contest!  You have another few weeks to drop by and add your own photo to the mix.  Just upload the image of Chris in his astronaut gear, pop him into a photo YOU take, and then submit it to the site.  The three top photo entries with the most votes will win a signed t-shirt and the winning photo entrant will win meet Commander Hadfield during a private webcast.

If you’re interested in reading some books about the International Space Station, or any of the other wonderful books we have about space flight or missions, drop by the library and we can suggest some good reading. Until then, get those photos uploaded and keep watching the official site or Twitter for regular updates from this fascinating Canadian!