An inspirational, uplifting, and life-affirming memoir about passion, resilience and living life to the fullest, from Dr. Dave Williams, one of Canada’s most accomplished astronauts.
I had dreamt about becoming an astronaut from the time I watched Alan Shepard launch on the first American sub-orbital flight on May 5, 1961. Eleven days before my seventh birthday, I committed to a new goal: one day, I would fly in outer space.
Dr. Dave has led the sort of life that most people only dream of. He has set records for spacewalking. He has lived undersea for weeks at a time. He has saved lives as an emergency doctor, launched into the stratosphere twice, and performed surgery in zero gravity.
But if you ask him how he became so accomplished, he’ll say: “I’m just a curious kid from Saskatchewan.” Curious indeed.
Dr. Dave never lost his desire to explore nor his fascination with the world. Whether he was exploring the woods behind his childhood home or floating in space at the end of the Canadarm, Dave tried to see every moment of his life as filled with beauty and meaning. He learned to scuba dive at only twelve years old, became a doctor despite academic struggles as an undergraduate, and overcame stiff odds and fierce competition to join the ranks of the astronauts he had idolized as a child.
There were setbacks and challenges along the way—the loss of friends in the Columbia disaster, a cancer diagnosis that nearly prevented him from returning to space—but through it all, Dave never lost sight of his goal. And when he finally had the chance to fly among the stars, he came to realize that although the destination can be spectacular, it’s the journey that truly matters.
In Defying Limits, Dave shares the events that have defined his life, showing us that whether we’re gravity-defying astronauts or earth-bound terrestrials, we can all live an infinite, fulfilled life by relishing the value and importance of each moment. The greatest fear that we all face is not the fear of dying, but the fear of never having lived. Each of us is greater than we believe. And, together, we can exceed our limits to soar farther and higher than we ever imagined.
Dr. Dave Williams is an astronaut, aquanaut, jet pilot, ER doctor, scientist, and CEO. The former Director of Space & Life Sciences at NASA, he has flown to space twice, once on the space shuttle Columbia and once on Endeavor, logging over thirteen million kilometres in space and over seventeen hours of spacewalks. He has lived and worked on the world’s only undersea research habitat and is the recipient of five honourary degrees, the Order of Canada, and the Order of Ontario. Williams lives in Oakville with his wife, Cathy, two kids, Evan and Olivia, and nephew, Theo. Connect with him on Twitter @AstroDaveMD.
“In Defying Limits, Dave describes how his passion for aviation and medicine set him on the path to becoming a Canadian astronaut. . . . Dave’s humility, team work, leadership and operational skill prove that he has the right stuff. I’d fly with him again anytime.”
– Scott Kelly, author of Endurance
“Every astronaut is deeply affected by the experience of viewing Earth from space, but how do you share that feeling with others who will never be there? Canadian astronaut Dave Williams uses his most brilliant moments in space - floating alone, anchored only by a tether - to remind himself, and us, to cherish every moment here on Earth. Very few of us can be astronauts, but we can all do that.”
– Jay Ingram, bestselling author of The Science of Why series
“An inspirational tale of a remarkable Canadian doctor, astronaut, space walker, aquanaut, CEO and loving father who turned failure into astounding accomplishments in space and on the ground. A fabulous example of how to live life to the fullest.”
– Bob McDonald, CBC’s chief science correspondent and host of Quirks & Quarks
“Dave Williams is a Canadian hero. As a distinguished Canadian astronaut, he was part of an elite core of individuals who had both the courage and the privilege to turn their dreams into reality. Through Dave’s story, we can all be inspired to set goals, overcome obstacles, and, with hard work and determination, know that we can make a difference.”
– Rick Hansen
“Riveting, inspiring words from a man who has the right, bright stuff. It’s all here, from his pitch-perfect pursuit of becoming a physician and astronaut to the perilous, peerless moments during three space walks when wonder captures his heart like love. This is a bracingly informative portrait about exploration, discovery and what makes life worth living.”
– Dr. Joe MacInnis, author of Deep Leadership
"Williams’ book is a remarkable portrait of one of the most down-to-Earth people to ever go into orbit, and it will resonate with astronauts and the other 99.999999 per cent of the population alike."
– Canadian Geographic
“Williams’s story shows off his infectious joie de vivre. . .”
– Mike Doherty, Maclean’s
“The book may be inspiring, but its most fascinating moments are mundane. Williams is at his best when describing astronaut training, from the high-altitude chamber meant to help would-be astronauts recognize . . . oxygen deficiency, to . . . an aircraft fondly known as the ‘vomit comet.’ Space may be where astronauts ‘defy limits,’ but Williams’s memoir reveals an astronaut’s most important work takes place with feet firmly on the ground.”