The Diary of an Apprentice Astronaut by Samantha Cristoforetti

Samantha Cristoforetti is a true role model for young women and girls everywhere – and one of our days’ somewhat reluctant icons.

Her focus, determination and hard work have taken her to heights only few humans will ever get to – all the way up to the International Space Station (ISS).

Edit: on the 28th of September this year, she will become the first European Space Agency female commander of the ISS.

A photo of Samantha Cristoforetti's book

The book starts in a pleasant and personable way and I love how she doesn’t downplay the lucky and unlucky events in her life or the occasional mistake she made. It takes us from the beginning of her education and career and the Italian Air Force to the end of her first mission on the ISS, with Expedition 42/43.

Her mission’s name was ‘Futura‘.

The bulk of the book can be quite technical, but that’s a boon for readers who are hungry for such detailed accounts of an astronaut’s training. We trudge along and suffer with her through hours and days and months of gruelling training and occasional deceptions. But also through light-hearted times and life-long friendships forged with other astronauts and support staff. It is a big, happy, hard-working and very international family, passionate about what they are doing.

Towards the end of the book, the writing becomes less technical, with many personal details about the Soyuz flight and life aboard the ISS (yes, including a lot of details about personal grooming and how do astronauts go to the toilet in space – especially female astronauts).

This part was my favourite, as well as the beginning. I admit I got a bit lost in all the technical details halfway through the book. Perhaps too many such tech-oriented accounts and not enough personal ones (I know, I am such a voyeur :)) ). It’s totally worth reading the book to get to the last part, though – the reading challenge mirroring, in a way, the five long years Samantha spent training as an astronaut before she finally flew to the ISS, as well as the many more years of hard work and study before that.

I would have also liked to have seen included in the book personal photos of Samantha over the years, both from her private life and from her professional one. The illustrative insert contained only drawings and diagrams of the Soyuz capsule, the ISS, the robotic arm and the various space suits.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in human spaceflight or the exploration of space, as well as to anyone who likes to read about gritty individuals that made their dreams come true.

Keep reading and getting inspired 🙂

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