US astronaut’s memoir provides blunt take on year in space
US astronaut’s memoir provides blunt take on year in space
This is not your usual astronaut’s memoir.
Kelly recounts dumpster diving on the International Space Station for discarded meals after a supply capsule was destroyed and ending up with “some dude’s used underwear” in his hands. He writes about the congestion, headaches and burning eyes he endured from high carbon dioxide levels and the feeling no one cared at Mission Control in Houston.
In his book, Kelly tells how prostate cancer surgery almost got him banned from space station duty, and how his vision problem during an earlier spaceflight almost cost him the one-year mission, which spanned from March 2015 to March 2016.
He tells how he visited a tattoo parlor before launch and got black dots all over his body to make it easier to take ultrasound tests in orbit, and how he fashioned extra puke bags for a nauseous crewmate.
Kelly said his goal in writing “Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery,” was to tell the whole story.
So many other NASA astronauts’ memoirs “focus on the good stuff and not necessarily the personal things that happened in their lives, things they might not be proud of, things that we all have that makes us normal, relatable people,” he told The Associated Press. “So I felt like sharing is good, but ... the bad stuff, too, makes the story more believable.”
In the book, he writes about a little-known incident that he says occurred during his first space station stint in 2010, when a Russian cosmonaut came untethered during a spacewalk and began floating away. Luckily, Oleg Skripochka happened to hit an antenna that bounced him back toward the space station, enabling him to grab on and save his life, according to Kelly.
Even though he was aboard the space station at the time, Kelly said he did not learn about it until his yearlong mission five years later, when it casually came up in conversation with other cosmonauts. “I was like really? Holy crap. Crazy,” Kelly recalled in an AP interview.
He remembered Skripochka had looked shaken, but thought it was because he had been out on his first spacewalk.
On Wednesday, the Russian Space Agency’s press department said it contacted Skripochka, who did not confirm Kelly’s account. No other comment was provided.
“I have often pondered what we would have done if we’d known he was drifting irretrievably away from the station,” Kelly writes. “It probably would have been possible to tie his family into the comm system in his spacesuit so they could say good-bye before the rising CO2 or oxygen deprivation caused him to lose consciousness — not something I wanted to spend a lot of time thinking about as my own spacewalk was approaching.”
Published by Knopf , “Endurance” comes out Tuesday. So does a version for children, “My Journey to the Stars,” put out by Penguin Random House.
The 53-year-old Kelly said he did not discover his passion for aviation and space until reading Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff” in college. Kelly writes that he was a terrible student and likely suffered from attention deficit disorder.
The former spaceman also tells how he realized right before his wedding that he did not want to go through with it, but did anyway, leading to a troubled marriage and eventually divorce, and how he initially did not want “that space station stink” on him — getting space station assignments — for fear it would limit his shuttle-flying opportunities. He flew twice on space shuttles and had two extended stays at the space station, sharing the entire 340-day mission, his last, with Russian Mikhail Kornienko.
When asked if it was difficult exposing his weaknesses when astronauts are supposed to be perfect or close to it, Kelly replied, “Naw, I feel like I am like a below-average guy doing slightly above-average stuff.”
Kelly figured he might write a book, given it was NASA’s longest single spaceflight ever. So he kept a journal in orbit and took notes about how the place looked, smelled and felt “to make someone feel like they were on the space station.”
“The book has not come out yet,” Kelly said, “and as I get closer to it coming out, I am thinking, ‘Man, I have got to live with this for the rest of my life.’ ”
Kelly’s identical twin brother, Mark, also a former Navy pilot and NASA astronaut as well as author, was among the several people who read early drafts. Scott Kelly devotes several pages to the 2011 shooting of his sister-in-law, former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Aboard the space station at the time, Kelly wondered whether he was calling his family too much — “whether in my effort to be there for them If was becoming intrusive.”
Back on Earth and now retired for 1 ½ years, Kelly said he misses being in space. Of course, when he was in space, he missed Earth. He credits that saying to a Russian crewmate, Gennady Padalka, the world’s most experienced spaceman, and is not sure the saying made it into the book.
“I need to write a sequel of all the stuff I left out.”
Free bus rides driving safer births for Nepali women
- The UN Population Fund says giving birth remains a leading killer of women of reproductive age in Nepal
- A huge obstacle to safe deliveries is the Himalayan nation’s tough terrain, which often makes getting to a health facility a long and expensive journey
RAMECHHAP, Nepal: As a teenager Meera Nepali was terrified as she went into labor with her first child at home in a remote village, miles from a hospital with nobody but her mother-in-law to help.
“I was a scared, but that was the norm. We didn’t have doctors close by,” Nepali said of her three-day labor in Khadadevi village in Nepal’s hilly Ramechhap district.
This year however, she delivered her second child in a rural health center thanks to a small cash incentive that is getting pregnant women to hospital by paying their bus fares.
The Aama Surakshya, or “protection for mothers,” program has helped more than two million Nepali women access medical services in the impoverished country where dying in childbirth remains a very real risk.
The UN Population Fund says giving birth remains a leading killer of women of reproductive age in Nepal, where the risk of dying in childbirth is higher than anywhere else in South Asia except Afghanistan.
A huge obstacle to safe deliveries is the Himalayan nation’s tough terrain, which often makes getting to a health facility a long and expensive journey, as well as the paucity of clinics in many parts of the country.
“We found that one of the main reasons rural women did not go to a hospital during childbirth was because they did not have hard cash to pay for transportation,” said Suresh Tiwari, one of the original architects of the scheme.
The program was started in 2005 with British aid money but has since been taken over by the Nepal government.
Today, it covers not just transport but medical costs for mothers and babies and includes a cash bonus for attending antenatal check-ups.
2017 marked a milestone for the program: more Nepali women opted for hospital births over home deliveries for the first time on record, official figures show.
“The free service and transport incentive have been very effective in bringing women to health centers and hospitals where they can be saved in the case of complications,” said Tara Nath Pokharel, head of the government’s Family Health Division, which now runs the program.
Nepali, one of the beneficiaries, paid nothing for her three-day stay at a clinic in Ramechhap district, east of Katmandu, in January.
She was discharged with 1,000 rupees ($9) for transport plus a 400 rupee bonus for attending four antenatal appointments.
“I returned home in an ambulance. We hardly had to spend anything. I am really grateful for this facility,” Nepali said, cradling her young son in her arms.
The scheme is also saving lives outside the maternity wards, in part by tackling cultural obstacles.
Deeply patriarchal attitudes and traditional preferences for home births also see hospital visits dismissed as an unnecessary expense for poor families.
Sita Khatri went into labor weeks before her due date and, unable to walk the three hours to the nearest health center, gave birth to a healthy boy at home.
But the 27-year-old suffered a retained placenta, a painful and potential fatal complication of childbirth, and had to plead with her husband to take her to hospital.
“He said we don’t have money. I insisted, saying there are government facilities, we won’t have to spend too much,” Khatri said.
“It is better to go the hospital than to die at home.”
Eventually Khatri’s husband relented, and she was treated for free at a nearby clinic. The couple were also given 1,000 rupees to pay for transport.
But some women cannot be reached by road and must be carried, while others encounter poorly equipped facilities once they arrive, said Niliza Shakya, a doctor at a health center in Ramechhap.
“Some women still don’t have the decision-making power to say they want to go to a hospital, and health posts like ours are not equipped enough,” said Shakya.
Nepal managed to reduce maternal mortality by 71 percent between 1990 and 2015 — just missing out on an ambitious Millennium Development Goal to reduce the rate by three-quarters.
But it has a long way to go in improving the overall quality of its health care, said Binjwala Shrestha, a charity worker from the Safe Motherhood Network Federation of Nepal.
“Reaching the hospital alone is not enough,” she said.