One of the most harrowing moments in astronaut Scott Kelly’s memoir of a year spent on the International Space Station (ISS) comes as he recounts his first spacewalk. Asked by ground control to do one more task at the end of a long day in a spacesuit, Kelly readily agrees – and promptly gets lost. “Lost” in this case means turned both around and upside down, until he spies the lights of the Persian Gulf above his head. “Suddenly it’s clear where I am,” Kelly writes of the moment, “and where I need to go.”
As it happens, that moment of clarity is illustrative of Kelly’s life story: From an adventurous (not to say wild) child he grew into an aimless (and still wild) teen – it was only as he was failing his first year of college that Kelly stumbled across Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff and suddenly knew what he wanted. Endurance alternates between tracing the path he took to becoming an astronaut, and his experience preparing for and living on the ISS.
Kelly presents a compelling picture of life in space, the physical challenges, moments of terror, and transcendent beauty, while never downplaying the boredom or loneliness unavoidable in a year spent meeting one of humanity’s most singular goals. When he finally gets to come home, the reader feels both Kelly’s elation, and the disorientation of having to leave the stars for which he strived for so many years.