Category: Non-Fiction
Reviewed by: Masse Bloomfield
Title: Too Far From Home: A Story of Life and Death in Space
Author: Chris Jones
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Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Publisher: Doubleday
Date: March 6, 2007
Retail Price: $24.95
ISBN: 0385514654

This book belongs with those about ill-fated but non-lethal space missions. The fatal shuttle Challenger and Columbia missions have books documenting the o-ring failure and the insulation damage. But these fatal missions cannot have astronauts recalling their actions and feelings. Expedition 6 to the International Space Station (ISS), like Apollo 13, had astronauts who survived a mishap and could recall their feelings as well as their actions.

Too Far From Home is about two American astronauts, Ken Bowersox and Don Pettit, and one Russian cosmonaut, Nikolai Budarin, on their Expedition 6 mission to the ISS from November 22, 2002 to May 2, 2003. These astronauts were taken to the ISS on the shuttle Endeavour. While they were on board the ISS, the Columbia shuttle disintegrated. The loss of Columbia grounded the shuttle fleet, essentially stranding the ISS crew. NASA could not bring the ISS astronauts back to Earth on a shuttle flight in March as planned.

When it became obvious that there would be no American shuttle available, NASA enlisted the Russians to launch a Soyuz to the ISS. The Soyuz arrived in May, carrying a crew of two to the ISS rather than the usual three. The Soyuz capsule was able to return three from the space station to Earth.

The first half of this book had confusing interjections of the personal histories of the Expedition 6 crew, their families, their education and training, as well as their prior flights and the problems those flights had, all of which interrupted the flow of the adventure of Expedition 6. It almost seemed as if author Chris Jones were trying to produce a litany of spacecraft problems.

Once the background material and flashbacks were completed, the story concentrated on the actions and thoughts of the astronauts. After the demise of Columbia, the timeline for the story became straightforward and much more interesting. The story jumped back and forth between NASA officials on the ground and what was happening on the ISS. The author described an addictive ambiance involved in space flight, and implied that the astronauts wanted to remain in space for as long as they could, harboring a desire to return to the weightlessness of space even after their ISS flight. As the author says, “The problem wasn’t that the Earth was calling out loudly to them, or that they had grown tired of sleeping as though from a hook, or that they were hungry for something that wasn’t born of a lab, or that they feared what would remain of their bodies and minds after so much time in space.”

This book documents one of the perilous adventures of flying in space. It is a must-read if you plan to be a space tourist. It is also a fairly good adventure story, complete with a cliff hanger in the voyage of the three ISS astronauts falling to Earth in the Soyuz.

© 2007 Masse Bloomfield

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