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ESA astronaut Tim Peake training for spacewalks at NASA’s facility in Houston, USA.
Review

Book review: ‘Limitless – The Autobiography’ by Tim Peake

Image credit: NASA

Astronaut Tim Peake’s new autobiography takes readers through his journey beyond Earth’s atmosphere. An out of this world experience, quite literally.

Tim Peake is best known as the first British European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut to visit the International Space Station. But if space lovers are wanting to know more about an astronaut's journey out of our atmosphere, Peake’s new autobiography ‘Limitless’ (Penguin Random House, £20, ISBN 9781529125573) will provide them with thrilling insight into his career over the years and what it actually feels like to live in space.

In ‘Limitless,’ Peake tells his story from the ground up. He begins with his time at the annual Chichester High School for Boys Cadet parade, when his radio-controlled aircraft display ended with his model plummeting into the roof of the nearby girls' school.

Making aircraft models and being a part of cadets shows he had a passion for flight in his youth, even if he had no plans to venture into space at the time. But if it weren’t for what followed after his time in school, he wouldn’t have got to where he is now. In 1992, he graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as an officer in the British Army Air Corps. He then went on to become an Apache helicopter pilot, flight instructor, and a test pilot who served around the world.

Peake delves into how he was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) from over 8,000 candidates and undertook six years of training to become an astronaut. He stresses that it wasn’t an easy ride. He was tested physically, psychologically, emotionally and intellectually. He learned how to speak Russian in St Petersburg. He even spent days in caves in Sardinia to cope with darkness and claustrophobia – all experiences he would have to endure in outer space.

ESA astronaut Tim Peake during his 4 hour 43 minute spacewalk to replace a failed power regulator and install cabling.

Peake during his 4 hour 43 minute spacewalk to replace a failed power regulator and install cabling.

Image credit: ESA/NASA

The most enthralling part of his autobiography, however, is when he gives readers a first-hand account of what it is really like to live in space. Peake visited the International Space Station in December 2015, launching on a Soyuz rocket with crewmates Tim Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko. And in his first month, Peake conducted a spacewalk to repair the Station’s power supply.

He tells readers that it was a very surreal experience, and despite having trained for years prior to the mission, “nothing can prepare you for that feeling, for the full realisation that you are no longer living on Earth”. He describes how although he was staring into the darkness of space, feeling isolated from everyone, he felt a strange sense of belonging. This fascinating and personal account of his time in space reflects on the hard work and dedication he had put in prior to getting to that point.  

This autobiography reveals a man of courage and humility. Indeed, ‘Limitless’ is a story of his kindness and showcases his ‘striving toward a bigger goal’ attitude. And although he has spent a vast majority of his life in the military and in space, readers will see that these off-ground, and indeed out-of-this-world experiences wouldn’t have shaped who he is today if it weren’t for the support from family and being a parent. He touches on his personal life which showcases his camaraderie as well as his bravery.

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