The Altered Atmosphere of Space is a collection of essays by space shuttle astronauts, which are considered to be a “best of” compilation. However, the essays are only five percent of the total collection and it has nothing to do with how much the authors are paid for this publication.
The first article in the collection is a tribute to retired NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, who spent three months aboard the space shuttle Columbia and was part of the crew during its tragic launch in 1986. He wrote a personal letter to each one of his fellow astronauts, offering his condolences and wishing them well on their next space trip. Cernan wrote that he wished to convey to them the “incredible bond” they share as “one-third of the shuttle crew.” In the essay, Cernan discusses how “the space shuttle mission was a life changing event for all of us,” how “the mission changed our lives for the better,” and how “the memories of the mission will remain with us for the rest of our lives.”
Another of the articles in the collection was written by retired NASA astronaut Ed Mitchell, who spent nine months on board the space shuttle Challenger. In his essay, Mitchell discusses the challenges of living in space, and why astronauts spend so much time in the laboratory. He describes the “laboratory like environment,” what it is like to work in space, and how it is comparable to being on earth.
Retired NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who was also on board the space shuttle Challenger, wrote an essay on how living in space changes the astronauts’ outlook on life. He talks about how living in space changes a person’s perception of time, the way he sees the world around him, and how he sees the universe.
One of the best aspects of the collection of essays by retired astronauts is how it compares to real life in space. Cernan talks about how the space station is similar to living on a small farm in the country, while Mitchell relates his experiences with living and working in space. Vande Hei says that the real challenge to living in space is dealing with the absence of gravity. “Spaceflight is much like going on a picnic or a camping trip. The problem is to make a living and not to become a burden to your family.”
Overall, the collection of articles by retired astronauts in the “Altered Atmosphere” of Space collection by John W. Schmitt, published by Yale University Press, is a great read, filled with insight into the world of space travel. as well as a glimpse into the lives of some of today’s most famous astronauts.