- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (March 6, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385514654
- ISBN-13: 978-0385514651
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 29 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,399,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Too Far From Home: A Story of Life and Death in Space 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
When the space shuttle Columbia broke up during its re-entry into Earth's atmosphere in February 2003, two American astronauts were still aboard the International Space Station, along with a Russian flight engineer. With further NASA flights suspended for months, perhaps years, questions began to emerge not only about how to bring the three men back, but how to provide them with enough supplies while they remained in space. Jones first wrote about the Expedition 6 team in an award-winning article for Esquire (where he is a contributing editor), and his story combines gripping narrative and strongly defined characters. Though extensive accounts of the Americans' backgrounds seems at first to put the brakes on, it's a necessary counterweight to parallel passages about the little-understood Russian space program—essential information because the three eventually took "an accelerated, lung-crushing dive" in a Soyuz capsule. In addition to that adventure, Jones's reporting is filled with details of life aboard the space station, from the amazing beauty of a space walk to the more mundane problem of "taking a crap" in zero gravity. That sort of frank talk enhances readers' identification with the astronauts, making their drama all the more engrossing. (Mar. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In an up-close and personal style, with occasional Tom Wolfe-like flourishes, Jones depicts the life of the modern astronaut who boards the space shuttle and flies to the International Space Station (ISS). The experience of launch and living in orbit receive all-questions-answered coverage, from making wills to eating to using the toilet, given as preliminaries to Jones' main drama: telling of the predicament of two Americans and a Russian who were aboard the ISS when the space shuttle Columbia was destroyed in February 2003. Although not exactly stranded by the subsequent suspension of shuttle flights--the ISS had a Soyuz lifeboat--Kenneth Bowersox, Don Pettit, and Nikolai Budarin had to adapt operationally and emotionally to an extended mission until, after terrestrials debated and dismissed the idea of abandoning the ISS, the Russians could launch a replacement crew. Jones, who obtained the cooperation of Bowersox and his crewmates, captures their feelings of separation from Earth and delivers space travel's ever-present risk in a kinetic rendering of their harrowing return home. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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In November 2002, ten astronauts left Earth aboard the space shuttle Columbia headed for the International Space Station (ISS). The mission was to depart much earlier, but problems, both technical and weather related, marred the launch. On one launch date, when the astronauts were already strapped-in in their seats aboard space shuttle Columbia, bad weather in their emergency landing site in Spain prevented the launch. The astronauts had to return home. On another occasion, a technical fault cancelled the launch. When the new launch date in November was approaching, the astronauts were wandering if more problems would suddenly appear and prevent another launch. Some astronauts believed that the mission had a bad luck aura around it, but did not discuss it openly. One astronaut had told his relatives that he was never coming back home again!
The launch did take place on November 2002, and to spectators on the ground and to the astronauts aboard Columbia the launch was routine and successful. But cameras aboard Columbia transmitted a different image to Mission Control. A piece was dislodged during the launch and hit critical heat shields located underside the shuttle. After reviewing the tape hundreds of times, Mission Control concluded that the piece must have bounced off the underside of the shuttle causing no damage.
On February 1, 2003, only seven of the ten astronauts were heading back to Earth aboard Columbia after bidding farewell to the three astronauts they left behind in the International Space Station. Sadly, they never made it back home. On re-entry, as witnessed by millions of spectators worldwide, Columbia exploded, killing all seven astronauts onboard. Contrary to what Mission Control thought at first, the heat shields were damaged during the launch. The three astronauts left behind in the International Space Station -- Donald Petit, Kenneth Bowersox, and Russian flight engineer Nikolai Budarin -- found themselves too far from home, stranded on the International Space Station!
Mission Controls in Houston and Moscow worked around the clock to bring back the astronauts safely. Launching another Space Shuttle was not an option, since further NASA space shuttle launches were suspended for months, perhaps years. There was also the problem of how to provide the stranded astronauts with enough supplies while they remained in space. Ultimately, they had to settle to a plan that, according to the author, was risky to say the least. Latched to the side of the space station was a Russian-built Soyuz TMA-1 capsule with outdated technology and, according to the Americans, a questionable safety record. In 1971 a malfunction in the Soyuz 11 capsule left three Russian cosmonauts dead (However, as one reviewer on amazon.com pointed out, all Soyuz crews since that mission have worn full pressure suits during launch and entry as a safeguard against that failure happening again). Furthermore, the Soyuz TMA-1 capsule hadn't been flight tested before (there was never a need to use it)! However, as far as the Russians were concerned, the Soyuz was safe and the only way to bring the astronauts back home.
Despite the inherent danger, the Soyuz became the only hope to return Bowersox, Budarin, and Petit home. Interestingly, though, the three astronauts had such a great time aboard the International Space Station that none of them wanted to return home when they were relieved. Aboard the Soyuz, the three astronauts eventually took "an accelerated, lung-crushing dive" back to earth. Their account aboard the Soyuz is remarkable, and will leave you gasping for air!
The author goes back to the history of the space race with Russia; with the first Russian in space; to animals sent in rockets to space; Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon; the Russian space station; and finally to the International Space Station. You will learn a lot of things about life in space that you probably did not know about, assuming you have not read such material before like me. For example, many early astronauts aboard space stations felt lonely and depressed and longed for home. All the earlier astronauts retired from NASA soon after their return from space! Two astronauts actually went on strike for a whole day while on a space station, and refused to continue their mission. They too retired from NASA on their return. However, the Russian cosmonauts fared much better. They adapted well to the loneliness and confines of space, unlike their American counterparts. According to the author, this is due to the simple life of the Russians as compared to the luxurious and comfortable life Americans lead and are used to.
You will learn a lot about the amazing beauty of a space walk, and how astronauts are so mesmerized by the beauty that they forget themselves, floating as in a trance towards Earth. One astronaut almost was lost in this way if it wasn't for another astronaut pulling him back! I actually went to my video store and bought an Imax DVD of a spacewalk! On the funny side, you'll learn how astronauts "take a crap" in zero gravity, and some quite embarrassing situations!
Here's some negative criticism from other reviewers on amazon.com:
"This author skips around with what in the movie business would be called flashbacks; a few of these are fine but I think this author over used them."
"Felt like there was a little too much effort put into making this into a Manly Tale. Everything seems a little too exaggerated -- the spicy language, the icy fear, the burning decisions. Maybe this style would have held up without question in a magazine, but at the novel's length, I kept wondering, "How do you know?" The little details started to feel like some of them were imagined or embellished; the writing was popping me out of being lost in the scene."
Overall, I highly recommend this book if you have never read non-fiction books on space before.
This book is really not about that, and that is why I enjoyed it so much.
This book is about the people involved in a very dramatic story. It's about the three men who were left stranded aboard the International Space Station when Columbia was lost, and the men and women whose lives and decisions surrounded theirs. Each man's character comes through clearly over the course of the book, as if you're getting to know them in person, and you come to appreciate the story more because of what you have been shown of these men. When the book ends, you want to hear Ken Bowersox give a quiet, thoughtful, and introspective lecture. You want to have Don Pettit teach you something--anything!--that you don't already know or understand. And you want to give Nikolai Budarin a big hug and have a drink with him, just because that man seems that cool. (Bowersox was probably a great mission commander, but I'd fly anywhere with Budarin. He seems the sort who could land a washing machine. If Hemingway had created Budarin, I doubt I'd have found him believable.)
These characters--and the others, especially Anne Bowersox and Micki Pettit--make this a very different sort of space book than those so full of technical details and explanations. As a result, this book captivated me in a way the more technical books never could, and I suspect that readers without any background or previous knowledge of the space program would find it very accessible and captivating.
I recommend this book very highly.