Linenger's Letters to his Son

January 28, 1997
"We all depend on each other

Dear John:

Sleep while you can.

On Mir we're awakened every morning to the blast of the master alarm. And I mean blast. No nice, appropriately chosen wake-up music like on Shuttle. Reminds me of the difference between those old wind-up, loud-ticking, ringing alarm clocks where you first had to make sure your heart was still beating, then try as quickly as possible to muffle it under your pillow before your eardrum burst; and our modern clock radios that play very soft music, allow you to snooze a bit more if you feel like it, and are easily ignored.

And why is it that no matter when we go to bed, no matter if I'm sleeping in a bed on Earth, or upside down on the wall in the space station, that I always want 5 more minutes in the morning? Maybe the sleep study people can figure that one out along with the rapid eye movement stuff.

You know, John, there are thousands of questions (more important than why the morning alarm is so darn unwelcome) that we don't know the answers to. That's why I'm up here. Lots of scientists and smart people down there have put together a great research program that I have the privilege of conducting. I try my best. It's important stuff, and I have to be careful to not make a mistake, like turn the wrong switch at the wrong time, or the experiment would be ruined. Two laboratories (actually 13 meter long "tubes" with power, telemetry, and computer hook-ups named Priroda and Spekter) full of equipment. Pretty complex. And basically a one-person show. I try my best.

Maybe the lesson is that we all depend on each other. The scientists on me. Me on the NASA mission lead and his team in the Moscow Control Center. And they on the scientist when things don't go as expected. Together, we have a good mission, we learn more, and we hopefully make life in the future a bit better for you. Anyway, that's the hope that keeps us going, keeps us striving to do our best.

Whee. A little too serious for a 14-month old. It boils down to this, John. Try your best. When Mommy's changing your diaper, try not to do those wrestling roll-reversals where you twist and turn and arch and do everything humanly possible to stay naked, your favorite state of being. Try to sleep through the night. Try to smile and look at the camera for pictures. And try to understand why Daddy has to be away for awhile.

Love you my son.


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