The Children’s Book Review | March 22, 2016
The Children’s Book Review: Which five words best describe Ask the Astronaut: A Galaxy of Astonishing Answers to Your Questions on Spaceflight?
Tom Jones: Surprising, Futuristic, Accurate, Credible, Readable
Can you share one highlight from Ask the Astronaut with our readers?
The toughest, yet most rewarding job an astronaut does is spacewalking. Why? The many protective layers of a space suit make the arms and legs bulky and difficult to move. Filling the suit with life-giving oxygen, even at low pressure, adds to this stiffness. The thick, pressurized gloves required me to squeeze my fingers nearly continuously to grip handrails and tools. The steady demands on upper body, shoulder, and forearm muscles challenged my stamina. Every spacewalk requires careful, exacting work, where mistakes can have deadly consequences; I’d never concentrated so hard.
Yet “flying” my spacesuit—my own personal spaceship—and drinking in the stupendous view outside filled me with pleasure. All these factors combine to make a spacewalk the most arduous, yet the most wondrous and rewarding job an astronaut can do.
What has been the best reaction from a reader, so far?
Everyone I talk to about the book is eager to hear about my personal spaceflight experiences as they try to imagine exploring space themselves. Yet Ask the Astronaut focuses on the present and future of space exploration, challenging readers to undertake their own journeys out into the solar system, to the Moon, the asteroids, Mars, and beyond.
What’s on your nightstand? Any books?
There are always two or three books on my nightstand. I am reading the sci-fi novel Seveneves, and I just finished Pacific Crucible, about the first year of World War II in the Pacific. Next up is Go, Flight!, the history of mission control as recounted by its legendary flight directors.
For your writing energy: sugar or salt, tea or coffee?
A good cup of coffee gets me settled in for a solid start to writing each morning.
Writing tools: computer, pen and paper, or all of the above?
I outline on the computer and draft my work there, but I jot ideas down on notepads and 3×5 cards.
Can you tell us something that even your most loyal fans may not know about you?
I love reading about and visiting significant sites in American history. There’s nothing I like better than hiking a battlefield like Gettysburg or walking the ground of a Revolutionary War site. Being there brings alive for me the gigantic personalities found in U.S. history.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Growing up in Baltimore, I was captivated by the Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the competition to put the first human on the Moon. I hope Ask the Astronaut will encourage young explorers, and their parents, teachers, and mentors, to listen to that impulse to explore, to discover, to push our species beyond our home planet.
Written by Tom Jones
Publisher’s Synopsis: Ever wondered what space is really like? Thanks to his 25 years of training for, flying in, consulting on, and writing and speaking about space, astronaut and spacewalker Tom Jones can answer that question and many others. What do you feel on liftoff? What is weightlessness? Where do you sleep in space? Can you see the Great Wall of China? Jones answers every question you have ever had about space in Ask the Astronaut. His entertaining blend of wit, personal experience, and technical expertise shines in each answer, and together all the answers illuminate the true space experience from start to finish. His engaging and informative responses remind readers of historic space achievements, acquaint them with exciting new ambitions, make them feel like they have experienced space firsthand, and even inspire an urge to explore space themselves. Jones covers everything from the training process for new astronaut candidates and the physical sensations and challenges of rocketing into orbit to what it’s like to live, work, and walk in space. Jones also explores the future of spaceflight, both professional and commercial, in the years to come. Ask the Astronaut is a delight for all readers, especially “armchair astronauts” and younger, 21st century space explorers.
Ages 10-17 | Publisher: Smithsonian Books | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1588345370
Add this book to your collection: Ask the Astronaut: A Galaxy of Astonishing Answers to Your Questions on Spaceflight
About Tom Jones
Tom Jones is a planetary scientist, space consultant, professional speaker, and veteran astronaut who completed four space shuttle missions and three spacewalks. Jones has authored six books, including Sky Walking: An Astronaut’s Memoir, and he writes for aerospace magazines such as Air & Space Smithsonian, Aerospace America, Popular Mechanics, and The Planetary Report. A senior research scientist for IHMC, he appears regularly on television news as an expert commentator for space exploration and science stories.
This interview with Tom Jones, author of Ask the Astronaut, was conducted by Bianca Schulze. Follow along with our content tagged with Astronaut Books, Non-Fiction, Space, Science, and Speed Interview to discover more great books.