Tim Peake & The ESA - The Astronaut Selection Test Book

Tim Peake & The ESA - The Astronaut Selection Test Book

Tim Peake
ARRSE Rating
3.5 Mushroom Heads
I received this book as a random choice as I fancied something different to my usual reading material and it certainly was. It takes the form as a self test book with the promo that it includes real tests and exercises used by the European Space Agency, with photographs from the various training programs such as survival, team building, zero-g training and neutral buoyancy. There are also illustrations which are more aimed at a younger reader in their early teens but these do not detract from the actual content of the book, which is written as though the reader is actually applying to be an Astronaut.

The book is divided into four main sections; Selection Process, Astronaut Requirements, Astronaut Training and Mission to Mars. The book starts with an introduction which contains a few "simple" tests which are often used in corporate team building exercises and then the blurb about why the book was written and how to use it to complete the tests in the different sections.

The Selection Process looks at the "candidates" cognitive capabilities and psychomotor performance or, as one former astronaut trainer is quoted as saying, "We are looking at how your brain is hard-wired." The tests which then follow cover spatial awareness, visual perception, memory retention, technical information, concentration skills, English language , mental arithmetic and measurement exercises. They vary from relatively easy to mind melting depending on ones ability and caused me varying amounts of smugness, satisfaction, annoyance, frustration and on several occasions actually throwing the f***ing book across the room.

The Astronaut Requirements section is quite short and covers the actual "application". You are invited to answer 3 questions, such as "Why do you want to be an Astronaut?", "What are the main tasks of an Astronaut?" and a candid description of yourself, each of which should be no more than 750 words, and then a few questions which require shorter answers. The author describes his experiences of going through the application process whereby 8172 applied but only 918 were selected to go forward, a pass rate of 11%. It then goes on to describe the main requirements for acceptance onto the Astronaut Training programme such as being a national of an ESA member state, preferably aged 27-37 and be between 153-190cm tall, have a degree in Natural Sciences, engineering or medicine and have at least 3 years post-graduate experience in the relevant field, physically fit, various psychological requirements and professional requirements.

The Astronaut Training section is another part of the book which caused me a few headaches as I tried some of the tests and exercises. Some of them are very similar to corporate team building exercises where groups of disparate employees are put into situations such as they have crashed in the desert and have a selection of items they have salvaged and have to rank them in importance/relevance or they are aptitude tests for language or communication, both verbal and non-verbal. There also teamwork and logic exercises in the section and they could be of use to trainers with some adaption as they are mostly designed for groups rather than individuals. There is also a small section which helps to determine which kind of personality traits you have.

The Mission to Mars section follows and again has a selection of tests such as memory, flash arithmetic and pattern recognition (the book got a couple of low orbit flights again but mainly after working nights) as well as potential issues regarding travelling to and landing on Mars. There are also brief descriptions of some of the current training programmes that are being undertaken for potential "Mars-tronauts" such as spending 12 months on the Concordia Research Station in Antarctica.

Overall I enjoyed the book, even though it caused me to use some fruity language on many occasions, and I found it a good way to exercise my mind and keep it active rather than just getting bored when there was nothing on the telly. It was certainly better, I thought, than doing Sudoku or word search and I would recommend it for anyone wanting to sharpen and improve their mental skills, possibly for career development or just fun.

3.5/5 Mr. Mushroom Heads

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