Linenger's Letters to his Son

March 8, 1997
Space Station is a five star hotel"

Dear John:

Just talked to Ellen Baker on the ham radio. She talked to Mommy in Russia on the phone earlier, and passed along Kathryn's love to me as I was zooming over the US I'll take it any way I can get it. My love to Kathryn.

Reading a book called Endurance, by Alfred Lansing. The flight surgeon picked it out, and I was pleasantly surprised when I opened a bag full of other stuff and found it when unpacking the science gear the first day up here. I'm obviously tired by the end of the day, because I've been reading it as bedtime reading for two months now, and doubt I will finish. The eyes start closing after a page.

But it's not Lansing's fault--it is interesting reading. These explorers, out to cross the Antarctic, get trapped in an ice flow, their boat gets crushed, and they try to survive. Primitive living begins.

Compared to what they endured, the space station is a five star hotel. They ate seal and penguin meat day after day after day. I get Russian-American freeze-dried cuisine--shrimp cocktail, veggies, borsch--the whole spread. They had a lightless winter. I get light and dark every forty five minutes. They viewed gray days and endless white; I view the Himalayas, the boot of Italy, the crook of Cape Cod. They wore the same clothes for over a year; I get a fresh T-shirt and pair of shorts every week. They had to trudge through uneven, unstable terrain; whereas I float effortlessly. And the temperature here is nicely controlled, we have power, lights, computers, and every couple or three weeks five minute talks with the ones we love. Not too shabby.

The book is based on diaries that the men kept. In spite of different settings, we are both exploring, both isolated, and both 'enduring'--and interestingly, share many of the same thoughts. Here's some things they wrote about, and that I feel.

You become more self-reliant--to a greater degree than thought possible. You finally truly appreciate what others do for you in service (Mommy for example) when you have only yourself to do things. You feel good when you are tested, and prove yourself capable. Surprisingly, you do not feel longings so much; but rather have pleasant reminiscences. And in general, in spite of everything, you are pretty happy.

Hope you and Mommy are happy, too. You have each other. In a couple of months, we'll all be together again.

Looking forward to talking with Kathryn tomorrow, and finding out all about what you have been up to. Always brings a smile to my face when I hear of your latest 'trick'.



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