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The Human Side of Human Space Flight

What NASA calls 'Human Space Flight' (when 'manned space flight' got considered uncorrect politically) is officially portrayed as triumphal orbital tours of steel-eyed square-jawed heroes and heroines who are conquering the universe on behalf of our home planet. But this convenient public relations image overlooks the far-more-fascinating human side of the space flight experience, an untold story in which real men and women face astronomical exaltation to be sure, but also have to deal with fear, frustration, humor, and occasional astonishment. This is that side of the untold story, derived from Oberg's quarter century at the NASA space center in Houston, his decades-long friendship with many key astronauts (and a few cosmonauts too), his access to hundreds of pages of secret transcripts of post-flight debriefing sessions and to face-to-face story-telling in homes, offices, and at the astronaut hangout, the infamous 'Outpost Tavern'. His vivid narrative touches on the things that ordinary people have always wanted to know about astronauts, but which NASA failed to tell well. How do space toilets really work - and what's it like when they fail? What does the air smell like in space, and how does your body feel? How do you sleep, and what do you dream? What events have been the most hilarious, and the most terrifying? What kind of work-around repairs have astronauts and cosmonauts had to throw together to handle emergencies (hint: one of them involved lots of taco sauce). What can you actually see with your own eyes outside, and what does it feel like to see such unearthly sights? What have been the most predictable aspects, and what have been the most surprising aspects of being in space? What has been the best way to relax, to pull practical jokes, and to enjoy the company of fellow crewmembers? What has to be kept locked aboard a spacecraft, and what things have to remain secret - or personally private? How can you die there, and how - someday - will a human being be born there? This is the real-life report of the actual experiences of the humans whom we 've sent off our home world, and of the ideas and insights they've come home with.


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