Linenger's Letters to his Son

March 18, 1997
Early explorers never talked to their loved ones"

Dear John:

Sorta talked to Mommy on Sunday. At least I heard her voice a few times.

We move fast. The station rotates. The antenna is not always aligned. Only a few ground stations are open. The public Russian phone system is outdated. Our transmitter that aims at a satellite is broken. Combine all of that, and the chance of me having a normal conversation with Kathryn adds up to about zero. We've averaged less than 5 minutes of intelligible conversation a month.

Early explorers never talked to their loved ones. Sometimes, if they were lucky, they would receive three-month old letters by boat. Mail call on U.S. Navy ships is still a big deal--though E-mail is rapidly taking over. So it can be done.

The problem is really one of expectation. You read "private family conference--bort engineer II (that's me) " on the schedule. You set your wristwatch alarm. You look forward to hearing Mommy's voice, her laugh. And, of course, the John-report--what you are up to. When the time comes, you hear static and an occasional word or two. Usually, a very distant "Jerry, do you hear me?"

You come away feeling worse off, a bit lonely, and somewhat cheated. No one's fault, but it hurts you none-the-less. And Mommy, too, I suspect.

Everyone asks about lonliness, about how you cope with being alone and in space for five months.

You prepare yourself for it. I did a little test. On Jan 1st, a year ago, I said: okay, pretend you are in space. In May, I said, okay, you're back home again. It was a long time. John, you changed tremendously over those five months, and I really, really enjoyed watching you go from baby to toddler.

I work long, long hours everyday. Gives you a great sense of accomplishment, of achievement. You feel worn. You feel like you are doing something for your country; and I say that very sincerely. It feels good. You don't whine, you don't sit in a corner and tell yourself how misirable it is without pretzels, without trees. No, you carry on.

When I think of you, Mommy, and other loved ones--it gives me a good feeling. When I fly by your picture on the wall, and see your smile, it makes me happier. I write you because it brings you to me; me to you and Mommy. I relax a bit, feel content, and look forward to return. Thoughts of home are good thoughts--not a preoccupation.

Anyway, we are luckier than the early explorers--my letters get through in a week or so. I know Mommy cares for me, misses me; don't really need to hear the words. I have thought to draw on when I need it. Hopefully, she feels the same way. She is very special.

Love you, John. Pleasant dreams. I'll be thinking of you and watching over you.


Back to Linenger's Letters to his Son

Text only version available

This page is best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher or Netscape 4.0 or higher.
Other viewing suggestions.

NASA Web Policy

Curator: Kim Dismukes
Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty




Welcome | History | Science | Spacecraft | People | References | Multimedia | Home | Search | Tours | Site Map