Astronaut’s memoir provides blunt take on year in space

Marcia Dunn
Associated Press

Cape Canaveral, Fla. — In his new autobiography, retired astronaut Scott Kelly gives an unflinchingly blunt take on his U.S. record-breaking year in space and the challenging life events that got him there.

This isn’t 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,” which comes out Tuesday, 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 didn’t 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.