The Ordinary Spaceman


The Ordinary Spaceman

From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut

Clayton C. Anderson 
Foreword by Nevada Barr

400 pages
25 color plates, 35 b&w photographs


May 2023


$24.95 Pre-order

June 2015


$36.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

June 2015


$36.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

June 2015


$36.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Winner of the Nebraska Book Award

What’s it like to travel at more than 850 MPH, riding in a supersonic T-38 twin turbojet engine airplane? What happens when the space station toilet breaks? How do astronauts “take out the trash” on a spacewalk, tightly encapsulated in a space suit with just a few layers of fabric and Kevlar between them and the unforgiving vacuum of outer space?

The Ordinary Spaceman puts you in the flight suit of U.S. astronaut Clayton C. Anderson and takes you on the journey of this small-town boy from Nebraska who spent 167 days living and working on the International Space Station, including nearly forty hours of space walks. Having applied to NASA fifteen times over fifteen years to become an astronaut before his ultimate selection, Anderson offers a unique perspective on his life as a veteran space flier, one characterized by humility and perseverance. 

From the application process to launch aboard the space shuttle Atlantis, from serving as a family escort for the ill-fated Columbia crew in 2003 to his own daily struggles—family separation, competitive battles to win coveted flight assignments, the stress of a highly visible job, and the ever-present risk of having to make the ultimate sacrifice—Anderson shares the full range of his experiences. With a mix of levity and gravitas, Anderson gives an authentic view of the highs and the lows, the triumphs and the tragedies of life as a NASA astronaut.


Author Bio

Clayton C. Anderson retired in 2013 after a thirty-year career with NASA and two missions to the International Space Station. He is currently the president and CEO of the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in his hometown of Ashland, Nebraska. Anderson is the author of It’s a Question of Space: An Ordinary Astronaut’s Answers to Sometimes Extraordinary Questions (Nebraska, 2018), as well as the children’s books A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet and Letters from Space. Nevada Barr is an award-winning novelist and best-selling author of the Anna Pigeon series.


“This is The Right Stuff for a new generation. Clayton Anderson is an astronaut for the rest of us; a regular guy from a small Midwestern town who set the bar high for himself and never lost sight of a lofty goal—even when most of us would have given up. As it turns out, it is not so much about having ‘the right stuff’ as it is about never doubting yourself and never settling for less.”—Miles O’Brien, award-winning science journalist for PBS, the National Science Foundation, and CNN


"Clayton Anderson is no ordinary astronaut, and this is no ordinary book. It is an uncompromisingly honest rendering of a challenging and fulfilling life by someone with a singular dream and the moxie to pursue it to success."—Roger Lemkpe, Lincoln Journal Star

"He may have been an ordinary spaceman, but The Ordinary Spaceman demonstrates he is certainly not ordinary."—Jeff Foust, Space Review

"Anderson's down to Earth account of the astronaut's life may help more of us to connect with the profession's forward looking significance—a welcome addition to the outreach successes of Hollywood's Box Office and NASA's social media salvos."—Mark Carreau, Aviation Week Network

"Anderson provides a focused picture of how a fiercely dedicated individual became a spaceman."—Publishers Weekly

“Learn about the excitement, the awe, the thrills, the suspense, and the experiences unique to the astronauts in the shuttle program. Clay blends his personal stories with his professional challenges. I am especially impressed with his persistence in applying for the astronaut program: Clay’s experience will be motivation for anyone to never give up!”—Eileen Collins, retired NASA astronaut and USAF colonel and the first female pilot and commander of a space shuttle

“Clay has truly had an exciting life full of adventure and challenges. He tackles each moment in life with ambition and optimism. His life stories can inspire each of us to reach further, dig deeper, and fly higher. From his days growing up in Nebraska and his family life to his time on the International Space Station, Clay proves that life is what you make of it.”—Curt Tomasevicz, Olympic gold medalist and fellow Nebraskan

“Clayton Anderson’s new book will serve as a textbook on character, patriotism, and inspiration. Finally, a book especially for young people that defines what it means to become a true American idol. Clayton’s life brings definition to the words ‘gentleman,’ ‘teacher,’ and ‘coach,’ as well as ‘brave,’ ‘honest,’ and ‘hard working.’ This book will not only be a good read, it will become a must read! The book adds value to the American Space Program and provides credibility to the phrase ‘the sky is the limit’ when you combine persistence with effort.”—Allen J. Beermann, executive director of the Nebraska Press Association and former secretary of state

“There’s nothing ordinary about Clayton Anderson. He’s spent his life (on and off this planet) defying gravity and the odds. From the cornfields of Nebraska to the edges of our planet’s pull, Anderson has achieved whatever he’s dreamed. In his memoir, The Ordinary Spaceman, Anderson weaves an incredible life story of heart and heroism and gives the reader a seat in the copilot’s chair.”—Tom Abrahams, best-selling author of the Allegiance series and award-winning television journalist 

“Clay’s great example shows that a small-town kid can achieve big dreams. I can’t think of anything bigger than being an astronaut. This book leaves nothing out of Clay’s journey to becoming one of the lucky and blessed few who get to experience God’s handiwork from the darkness of space. It’s funny, entertaining, and well worth the read.”—Dan Whitney (Larry the Cable Guy), stand-up comedian and actor

Table of Contents

Foreword by Nevada Barr
1. First Flight
2. Beginnings
3. Freshman Fifteen
4. Hey, There’s an App for That!
5. Answer the Phone, Will Ya?
6. Baby Astronauts
7. Hail Columbia!
8. Age of Aquarius
9. From Russia with Love
10. Survival of the Fittest
11. Sign of the Times
12. Sixty-Two and Counting
13. Dark Days of Summer
14. Crime and Punishment
15. The “Void” of Outer Space
16. The Doctor Is In
17. The Hard Thump of Reality
18. The Serendipity of Chance
19. Walking Tall
20. Fame and Fortune
21. Find Us Faithful
22. Impacts
23. The End Becomes the Beginning

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