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Ground Control to Waterstones: Tim Peake Picks 5 Books to Take to Space

Posted on 29th December 2017 by Martha Greengrass
Planet earth is blue and there's nothing Tim Peake can do... except read. We asked the world famous astronaut for the five books he'd want by his side if he were lost in space.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that space comes at a premium when you are traveling in a Soyuz spacecraft and living on board the International Space Station. As a consequence, packing a suitcase full of books for a 6-month mission unfortunately isn’t an option. However, as a book lover I was delighted to learn that in space astronauts can read e books, or (more commonly) listen to audiobooks. We have a crew support team on the ground that will, amongst many other things, send e books, podcasts, news articles, music files and even TV programmes via the communications data link up to the space station, if requested. 

I didn’t read as much as I wanted to whilst in space, mainly because what limited free time I had at the weekends and evenings was spent taking photographs of Earth or calling friends and family. Whilst exercising, I would often catch up on the news or listen to podcasts (The Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox and Robin Ince being one of my favourites, or the Chris Evans Breakfast Show). However, I did take an original hard copy of Yuri Gagarin’s autobiography, Road to the Stars, with me. This book belongs to Helen Sharman and was signed by Gagarin himself, along with Helen’s crew during their mission to the Mir space station in 1991. I can’t think of a better choice of book to read whilst in space ‐ it was a real honour to be able to borrow this book from Helen, and a memorable experience reading it up there. Having visited two separate space stations and completed well over 3000 orbits of planet Earth - this may now be the best travelled book of all time! 

However, if I was stranded in space, I would probably use different criteria for selecting my reading choices! I would choose books that make me laugh, that inspire me, and books about human endeavour that might just help keep me alive. So below are five of my favourite books to pass the time amidst the stars and the vacuum of space. For any budding astronaut out there, I highly recommend them. After all, the first person to walk on Mars may well be reading this. 

The Martian by Andy Weir 

Brilliantly funny and at the same time one of the most scientifically plausible fiction books I have read about space exploration. I see a lot of Mark Watney's character in the astronauts and cosmonauts of today - Andy Weir hit the nail on the head in capturing the essence of what will be the 'right stuff' needed on a mission to Mars. 

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Robinson Crusoe on Mars**Andy Weir's second novel Artemis, a high concept thriller set on the moon, is out now**A survival story for the 21st century and the international bestseller behind the major film from Ridley Scott, starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I'll die of thirst.
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In the Shadow of the Moon by Francis French and Colin Burgess 

A brilliant book that captures the human element behind the golden age of space exploration. Reading it makes you feel a part of the extraordinary missions that accomplished one of humanity's greatest achievements...setting foot on the moon. 

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Drawing on interviews with astronauts, cosmonauts, their families, technicians, and scientists, as well as Soviet and American government documents, the authors craft a remarkable story of the golden age of spaceflight as both an intimate human experience and a rollicking global adventure.
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Wind Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

Don't be fooled into thinking this is just a book about flying - it's one of the most beautifully told stories of what makes life worth living. I loved every page. 

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In 1926, de Saint-Exupery began flying for the airline Latecoere - later known as Aeropostale - opening up the first mail routes across the Sahara and the Andes. This autobiographical narrative combines encounters with nomadic Arabs and other adventures. It includes the story of his crash in the Libyan Desert in 1936, and his miraculous survival.
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Chickenhawk by Robert Mason 

I read this as a young pilot about to embark on a career flying military helicopters. It should have put me off for life. Robert Mason tells a gripping account of the relentless courage and heroism amidst the insanity of the Vietnam war. The final few pages are the most shocking I have read in any book. 

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In Chickenhawk, Robert Mason gives us a devastating bird's eye-view of that war in all its horror, as he experiences the accelerating terror, the increasingly desperate courage of a man 'acting out the role of a hero long after he realises that the conduct of the war is insane.'
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Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer 

An extraordinary account of what humans are capable of, both good and bad, when pushed to the absolute limit. 

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Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air is the true story of a 24-hour period on Everest, when members of three separate expeditions were caught in a storm and faced a battle against hurricane-force winds, exposure, and the effects of altitude, which ended the worst single-season death toll in the peak's history.
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