Linenger's Letters to his Son

April 7, 1997
"
Never look at lasers out the windows of spacecraft"

Dear John:

Heard from my old swimming coach Mr. Dave Clark (not the bandstand guy, nor the rock group “five” that no one really cared for because they copied the Beatles early on, but the real Dave Clark). Said that people were pulling for me, thinking of me, and proud of me back on planet Earth.

Made me feel good inside and I worked even harder than usual today. Maybe he simply hit a memory nerve inside my head, activating my recall of the sound of his whistle blaring and him yelling “pick it up, sprint, no breathing, go!” when our arms already felt like lead and our lungs bursting. Though not pleasant at the time, it taught me that no matter how tired I felt, no matter how much I thought I had reached my limit--it was still possible to reach down inside further yet and find more, push it, tap some hidden reserve. A valuable lesson.

He also spoke of family. How all parents feel the same way I do; an almost magical love of their children.

Mommy says that you are a smart little guy. I, of course, agree. But what parent doesn’t feel that about their child? All of our children are special; and our own children, in parental eyes, extra, extra special. Hope that you feel just that--the most important, loved person in the world to Mommy and I. An extension of the love we have for each other.

Wow! How’s that for Dad showing his soft side?

In the space business, another busy day. Diffusion coefficients in metals. Tracking my biorhythms. Measuring radiation levels. Looking at microbes. Checking crew health. Looking ahead and reviewing contingency procedures for the Progress re-supply vehicle docking tomorrow.

Did have time to glance out the window over the Amazon, and, sadly, saw smoke plume after smoke plume rising into the sky from fires being set off to clear the jungle. Japan at night was spectacular. The entire coastline aglow from the lights of towns and cities, with Tokyo shining as brightly and over as wide an area as any city on Earth.

I will not be looking down at France tonight. They will be trying to aim a laser at us as we zoom by (tracking experiment?) and it is best not to put your retina in its path. There’s a new one to add to your list of don’ts: right after “don’t bite other peoples legs", add “never look at lasers out the windows of spacecraft.” I know, it’s tough keeping track of all these do’s and don’ts!

Hope you had another adventurous, learning day, too, John. Goodnight. Pleasant dreams. Love you.

Dad.

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