Sunday, 11 May 2008

Letters from Mir, Jerry M Linenger

In 1997, astronaut Jerry Linenger spent 132 days aboard the Mir space station. During that period, he wrote frequent letters to his fourteen-month-old son as a means of keeping a connection with his Earth-bound family. Those letters have now been collected in this book.

Linenger's stay aboard
Mir was not without its hazards. At one point there was a fire, which threatened to kill those aboard before being brought under control. The aging station also needed constant maintenance. But each day, Linenger would take the time to write a letter. Sometimes he discussed what had happened that day, other times he would explain something of the station's workings. Or he would describe what he could see of the Earth below; or the hopes and dreams he had - for himself or for his son.

In some respects, Letters from Mir reads a little like a diary of Linenger's stay aboard Mir. But mostly it reads exactly as what it is: a series of letters to his son. And that, for me, is what made the book so hard to finish. There are some interesting details about life on the space station, but I found all the "our great nation" and loving fatherhood stuff a little too much for me. Of course, that's what the book is, so I wasn't surprised to find it in there. There's also a sense you're reading someone's private letters, an illusion not really dispelled by the fact that it's a published book you're holding in your hands.

Letters from Mir is exactly what its title says. I suspect I would find Linenger's other book about his stay aboard the space station, Off the Planet, a much more interesting read.

Letters from Mir, Jerry M Linenger (2003, McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-140009-5, 207 pp)

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