ISS Science Officer Don Pettit peers at the Earth through
a window in the Destiny Laboratory.
Space Chronicles #19
ISS Science Officer Don Pettit
It is now time
to go home. As much as I like being here, I realize that this is
not home, and it is time to return. There are new frontiers to explore
on Earth as a family. There are two little boys with wide-open eyes
ready to explore the world, and it is time for me to be there and
learn with them. It is always best to stop an endeavor while you
are still in the midst of enjoyment; this will leave the best memories
and instill a strong desire to do it all over again.
of being home is directly proportional to how far you have traveled.
When you go out to dinner, you feel home when you pull into the
driveway. When you go for a drive to a state park some distance
out of town, you feel home when you enter the outskirts of your
city. When you drive across the United States, perhaps on one of
those memorable family vacations, you get this warm feeling of being
home when you cross over your state line. When you go on international
travels, particularly when returning from places with radically
different cultures, you feel home the first place your airplane
lands on U.S. soil. You may still be 2,000 miles from home, but
you have this wonderful sensation in your heart that speaks out
been on Space Station for nearly six months, we will be returning
on the Soyuz spacecraft and be landing on the desert plains of Kazakhstan.
When our capsule goes thump on those desert flats, we will be literally
on the opposite side of the world, nearly 12,000 miles from home.
Yet once normal breathing resumes, we will have this warm sensation
inside that we are home. I can picture sometime in the future, a
crew will be returning from Mars and after inserting themselves
into low Earth orbit, perhaps from an aero-braking maneuver, they
will look down from their orbital vantage point at this blue jewel
circling below and say, "We are home."
We will be
returning home on the Soyuz spacecraft. Unlike the Space Shuttle,
there is precious little room for personal effects. I can return
with perhaps three small items that will fit in my pocket. What
will I choose? The combination pocket tools I brought engraved with
my boys' names? There is one for each. I have been using them for
my Space Station repair work and figured the boys would like to
have something that daddy used to repair Space Station. I can picture
my boys using them at Boy Scout jamboree. Should I return with my
wife's favorite necklace, a small part of her that I brought along,
much like before a great battle, a knight might keep the handkerchief
from his lady? When I have periodically looked at this necklace,
pleasant memories would come to mind. And I would smile.
thought, I decided to bring none of these items home. I can always
replace the pocket tools and I can buy my wife another necklace.
There is no room for this kind of sentiment in the Soyuz spacecraft.
What I have decided to bring home is truly unique to Space Station,
something money and a trip to the shopping mall can never replace.
I have decided to bring home my spoons. I have three Russian-made
spoons. They are simple in design, being unpretentiously stamped
from stainless steel. A small square embossed into the handle is
the only visible marking. There is a hole in the handle for attaching
a string so it won't float away. In space, it is not good to lose
your spoon. While seemingly a good idea, eating with strings attached
is a pain so we take our chances with the universe and cut our strings.
What are truly unique about these spoons are their gracefully long
handles. They are twice as long as a normal spoon yet the spoon
part is standard teaspoon-sized. They allow one to gracefully shovel
in dinner from deep plastic food pouches without getting your fingers
all sticky-gooey with the stuff you are attempting to eat. They
will make great camping spoons.
long handled spoons, I can picture my boys and I sitting around
a campfire, eating beans out of the fire-charred can they were cooked
in. As we chat about our world, our eyes will follow the sparks
as they rise in the draft of hot air. Perhaps we will look at the
stars and see Space Station pass overhead.