Monday, December 20, 2010

Too Far from Home: A Story of Life and Death in Space by Chris Jones

Having recently read and enjoyed Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, I eagerly sought another space program book and found in the audiobook section at Thomas Ford Too Far from Home: A Story of Life and Death in Space by Chris Jones. This 9 disc/11 hour audiobook read ably by Erik Davies recounts events of 2003 when U.S astronauts Kenneth Bowersox and Donald Petite with Russian flight engineer Nikolai Budarin were left on the International Space Station with no date for returning to earth after the explosion of the shuttle Columbia. NASA suspended the shuttle program in the wake of the accident, thus postponing the scheduled launch of Expedition 7 to replace the crew of Expedition 6. Bowersox, Petite, and Budarin would have to sit tight.

Of course, sitting is not easy in space. Everything floats. The ever-quizzical Petite began playing with his food, letting liquids float, spin, and assume strange shapes, which he photographed. Meanwhile, Bowersox strove to keep himself in shape with conditioning exercise, not wanting to lose bone mass or muscle strength. Though NASA managers tried to keep the crew busy, there was plenty of unstructured time. Ever mindful of their close quarters, the men strove to accommodate differences. Ironically, their worst dispute was over who might get to stay on the station if a Russian rescue mission could only take two of them. They were all enjoying their extended time in space.

Like Roach in her book, Jones goes into great detail about the dangers of entering and returning from space, the effects of space travel on the human body, and the histories of the U.S. and Russian space programs. While Roach presents a witty collection of essays on various topics, Jones weaves his research into an intimate narrative about the lives of the three astronauts, their wives, and key officials of the NASA program. Both are great books for readers interested in the history and future of the space program.

Jones, Chris. Too Far from Home: A Story of Life and Death in Space. Doubleday, 2007. ISBN 9780385514651.

9 discs. Books on Tape, 2007. ISBN 9781415935675

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