Linenger's Letters to his Son

February 7, 1997
"
An afternoon spin in a spaceship"

Dear John:

Just want you to know that I'm back home safe and sound. Left at two in the afternoon from one door of the space station; and came in a different door at around ten at night. Quite a day.

Closed the hatch. Checked that it and a second hatch within the Soyuz spaceship itself was airtight. Fired some thrusters to check them out. Waited. Then departed when we came into communication with Moscow mission control.

Felt it, heard it, and saw it.

Smooth, yet firm, pushoff. Spring-action. An ink pen floating forward.

Then the thrusters firing. Not like an explosion--more like low growls. Short. Repeated.

Out the window, the Earth spinning by, and the flashes of the thrusters. The space station docking port moving away. A view of module Priroda out my window. Then the whole station--all six cylinders.

Strapped in. Crouched with my knees almost to my chest. Spacesuit on. Ventilators humming and feeling the air trickle out inside my suit. Control panel in my face. Spinning miniature globe in a glass case. Caution and warning lights. Operation manuals written in Cyrillic. And feeling like we are moving, flying.

On station, you fly around inside--but you don't feel like the station is flying. Especially if you don't look outside. But in the spaceship, it feels like a car or airplane or jet--sitting in a cockpit, and flying. The Earth spins below. The space station changes position outside the window. And you feel the gentle thrust.

The docking. Feel and hear a thud. Feel your spaceship being yanked around a bit. Glad when the pressure inside holds. Glad to open the door again.

It feels like coming home after a vacation. All the lights are out. Familiar, but not overly familiar. Kinda a good feeling inside.

The Russian tradition after arrival is to sit down and eat salt and bread together. There's a roll that resembles a plain hamburger bun--we've named it San Antonio bread. Dry. Tasteless. Wonder-bready. I got it out, broke it into thirds, and with an almost straight face, said that eating San Antonio bread was an American tradition after going out for an afternoon spin in a spaceship.

So, John, that was Daddy's day. Hope that yours was as great as mine. Pleasant dreams, Johnchek.

Dad.

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