A One-Way Ticket

Now there is no way home, at least by the usual route. Only up—into the frontier

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-way ticket. My bridge has been burned. And now I’m in Kazakhstan, awaiting our December 21 launch.

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

I am thankful for all the pearls so tirelessly drilled into my brain by a whole array of instructors. Unlike on Earth, a naked human cannot survive long in space. We were never meant to be there. However, with a little techno-help, we can make machines that supply us with all the necessities of life. We can make vehicles capable of taking us there and bringing us back.

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

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