This was my first MasterClass and I am not sure if they are all in the same format, but this one felt more like a documentary than an online course. It was inspiring and informational, but was all “watch” and no “do”. Maybe I am biased because I currently work at Udacity, but I do believe that to really learn anything, you have to do more than just watch videos or read text. I get it, it is hard (read: impossible) to actually do space exploration in an online class but some of the topics discussed could have been followed up with exercises to put the information presented to use.
I have no complaints about the use and presentation of Chris Hadfield though. He does an amazing job presenting the information and telling the story in an exciting and easy to understand way. For the cost ($90 for a single class or $180 for a year of access), I do recommend this course for someone who is very interested in learning a little about space and learning all the areas they should probably learn more about. Just be aware, this is a very basic beginning and you will need to follow up on everything if you really want to learn what it takes to become a space explorer.
That is my biggest takeaway: this course teaches you what things you may not know, and that is valuable, but you will have to go other places to actually learn it. One think that really impressed me was the workbook that went along with the class. I have seen some cheap excuses for study guides with online courses, but this one was amazing! The high quality and time spent on creating this showed the attention to detail and professionalism they are capable of. I need to complete reading through it as there appears to be many useful links to dive deeper into.
- How Rockets Work
Chris explains the functions of the basic parts of a rocket, the physics of launching one beyond the atmosphere, and how rocket design has evolved from mission to mission.
- What it Feels Like to Launch
- Atmospheric Drag
Chris breaks down the equation for drag and shows how rockets are designed to overcome the biggest hurdle of launching into space—the atmosphere.
- Orbital Mechanics
Chris uses familiar situations—like driving a car and jumping off a diving board—to illustrate how the laws of orbital mechanics govern spaceflight and navigation
- Fuels and Propultion
Chris explains the pros and cons of different types of rocket fuels including liquid fuel, solid fuel, and ionized gas.
- The Price of Exploration
“Rockets and spaceflight are dangerous by definition. Learn how astronauts manage their fears and cope with tragedy as Chris had to do after the loss of a friend in the Columbia Space Shuttle mission. “
- Capsule Design
Learn the virtues and drawbacks of using the capsule model for human transport to space as Chris analyzes the designs of the Apollo, Gemini, Lunar Lander, and Soyuz.
- Shuttles and Beyond
Two-thirds of those who’ve flown to space got there on a Space Shuttle. Chris outlines the design of the Shuttle, the impact of its reusability, and how spacecraft will evolve in the future.
- Navigation Systems and Human Variables
Learn how astronauts use stars, planets, and instruments to understand where their spaceship is, how it’s oriented, and where it’s going.
- Navigating to the International Space Station
“It’s kind of like an elephant ballet.” Chris talks you through the process of flying your spaceship to the ISS, docking, and beginning your adventure aboard the laboratory in the sky.
- Conception, Design, and Construction
The International Space Station couldn’t have been built without teams coming together from around the world. Chris details the process of constructing the ISS and explains the idea of shared exploration.
- Life Support Systems
Learn about the many systems that work together to keeps astronauts alive aboard the ISS and how those systems are evolving so that we can travel even further in space.
Chris outlines a few experiments currently running on the ISS and explains how astronauts learn to conduct experiments in space on behalf of scientists on Earth.
Leadership: Commanding the ISS
Chris describes the great honor and responsibility of commanding the ISS, ranks the commander’s priorities, and outlines what it takes to reach and fulfill such an elite and difficult leadership position.
Training and Learning: One-Pagers
Preparing for space travel means learning massive amounts of information. Learn how Chris used a series of one-page summaries to recall complex systems and concepts on the fly during his time in space.
Comms: Mission Control Evolution and Operations
The first words spoken from the Moon were directed to Mission Control for a reason. Learn how Mission Control functions and why it is so critical to the success of a mission to space.
Chris gives a head-to-toe tour of an EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit), explaining how it keeps astronauts alive while spacewalking and conducting work outside the ship.
Chris outlines the physical and mental challenges of walking in space, describing the important roles played by support teams on Earth and inside the spacecraft during a spacewalk.
Chris describes his personal experience training for spacewalking in an underwater simulation and emphasizes the importance of gaining confidence in maneuvering and monitoring the spacesuit.
- Space and Perspective
What can we learn from looking down at Earth from above? Chris explains what spaceflight means for our human perspective and how we can use what we learn in space to preserve our species and planet.
Training and Learning: Simulations
Chris teaches you the principles behind simulation setup, the mindset you need to learn as much as possible from simulations, and how astronauts prepare for worst-case scenarios.
- How to Get to Mars
Chris explains the technical and societal challenges we face in traveling to Mars, including the ideal flight path required, the physics of slowing down and landing, and the risk of human life.
- Living on Another Planet
Chris walks through the basic human needs required to live on another planet. Learn what it takes to grow food in space, protect ourselves from the elements, and readjust to gravity.
- In-Situ Resource Utilization
If we can safely get to Mars, in-situ resource utilization could help us sustain life there. Chris breaks down the vital Sabatier process for creating hydrogen, oxygen, and methane on Mars.
- Exploring Mars, Geology and Astrobiology
Chris discusses how finding life on Mars could deepen our understanding of the universe and illuminate our place within it. Learn how we’re working with robots to search for life and build an outpost on Mars.
Conclusion: The Future of Exploration
In his parting words, Chris reflects on the cyclical nature of human exploration and Earth’s place in outer space.
Bonus Chapter: Chris's Journey
Chris tells his personal story of becoming an astronaut and gives advice for achieving your goals—no matter where life takes you.