A One-Way Ticket

Doorway to space: Our Soyuz sits in an assembly stand, where we can go inside and check things out.Unlike my previous trips, this time I arrived in Russia on a one-wayticket. My bridge has been burned. And now I’m in Kazakhstan, awaitingour December 21 launch.

Scuttling your ship is a historically proven method (think Cortés) toclose the door to the known and force yourself to face the unknown. Nowthere is no way home, at least by the usual route. Only up; into thefrontier. Blasted into space or blasted into bits, in either case youare no longer on this planet. Are there Dark-matter Dragons and Sirensof Space, patiently waiting for another hapless crew to venture by? Wekeep our wits, we reason, we act, and we will prevail.

I am thankful for all the pearls so tirelessly drilled into my brainby a whole array of instructors. Unlike on Earth, a naked human cannotsurvive long in space. We were never meant to be there. However, with alittle techno-help, we can make machines that supply us with all thenecessities of life. We can make vehicles capable of taking us there andbringing us back.

The basics of food, clothing and shelter take on new meaning. If youwant to survive in space, you must understand how these machines workand how to keep them operating, and that requires a strong understandingof math, science, and engineering. A little Yankee (and Russkie!)ingenuity helps. Students must master these hard subjects if they wantto follow in my footsteps.