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Showing 1-10 of 10 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on January 21, 2002
I well remember the morning of 18 September 1999, my son's 10th birthday, when I took him outside in the early morning for a splendid pass directly overhead by Mir. I have never seen before or since a better pass - right over the house. I waved up and tried to kid my kid that I'd arranged the deal just for him.
I've read Foale's book, I've read Dragonfly, and I've read a few other accounts of life aboard the dilapidated Mir space station. Jerry's account is a personal one, and like any other astronaut he talks about himself and his experience, but he also gives a good picture of conditions aboard and the tensions between crew members and ground control. It must have been a very challenging environment in a spacecraft filled with garbage and outdated equipment, requiring constant attention, in a space program kept aloft by political commitments rather than any real scientific need.
It is good to read Jerry's side of the story and to see how he dealt with the inefficiencies, the corruption and the constant malfunctions of the program. We haven't heard the last of Mir just yet, and I look forward to seeing an increasingly complete account of the flights coming out over the years to come.
I'll agree that Dragonfly is the more balanced account, a real eye-opener in its own right, but Jerry Linenger's account fills a gap in the story, and I can recommend it to any space junkie wanting a fix.
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on April 19, 2001
I bought the memoir OFF THE PLANET after listening to a radio interview with U.S.Astronaut and Mir Cosmonaut Jerry Linenger, where I found myself avidly watching the radio. My eyes were shining at his reserved and factual, yet humorous words, so I HAD to read this book, although I have little actual interest in the goings-on of NASA, or of space!
To be honest, it took me about two hundred pages before I recaptured that wonder-stuck awe, but I did recapture it, in the recollection of his 'space walk.' This man's picture of hurtling unemcumbered through space at 18,000 MPH at the end of a 'telescoping pole,' the sensations of raw speed and falling, and his fear, held me rapt. He tells of tucking the fear away and his frank acknowledgment of his courage in a letter to his infant son humbled me. This is a hero and a man!
I have to say I respect first person accounts much more than compilations of 'facts' garnered by strangers, so I enjoyed reading about the accomplisments that Dr. Linenger deemed important to the telling of his tale of time spent in the space program. I found his drive inspiring and I liked the way he tempered his pride with modesty. The quote, " compete against members of...the SEALS required me to be willing to hang up my ego..." sounds sincere to me. I also admire his dedication to 'the mission' and his poetic realization that he was "... no longer an earthling but a...fully adapted spaceman." This book took me out of my specialized little niche and makes me wonder that the entire Mir experience (and U.S. shuttle missions) haven't received more media coverage. This is truly pioneering history in the making and Linenger takes you directly there!
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on March 25, 2000
Dr. Linenger's book begins as many autobiographies do, with a blow by blow description of life as who-I-was-before-I-had-this-life-changing-event. And it reads much in the way autobiographies do; it uses so many "I's" and toots its own horn so much that it comes across as sounding egotistical.
But it is no secret that astronauts are a confident bunch, and there is no reason to believe that Linenger is, or should be, any different. And the message this book delivers is bigger than just the "story of Linenger." It is a social commentary. Linenger was one of the few astronauts (like Apollo 16's John Young) with the nerve to speak up about what is wrong with the US space program. More specifically, he describes first hand how the Russian and American space programs put American and foreign astronauts in avoidable situations that could have killed them. A foolhardy rendevous, designed by ground control in Moscow, results in a terrifying near collision with a garbage scow (a collision would finally occur when the chronically unlucky Michael Foale joined Mir).
Linenger's book also raises the question: what is happening to the hundreds of millions of dollars we are sending to Russia? Take for instance, the decrepit "city," partially funded by the US, where future astronauts and cosmonauts train. The perimeter walls are falling apart, entrance guards only check credentials periodically (rather than deal with the guards, Jerry actually sneaks into the compound), and vandals destroy Michael Foale's apartment. Not until Jerry spreads word that he wants to register for a gun permit does NASA take action to protect the security of the expatriot astronaut-trainees.
Even then, measures on the ground can't assure the safety of astronauts living in Mir. Simply put: space travel may be inherently dangerous, but the Russian space program layers unreasonable risk upon that which already exists. Why? Money shortages (who knows where our dollars go once they enter Russia), sloppy mission design, and a lack of accountability on the ground conspire to make Mir the next Apollo 1, as an oxygen generator fire vividly demonstrates. But the problem is perhaps an even more fundamental one. The people running the Russian space program value PR above the lives of the cosmonauts.
Jerry's book is most wonderful because it tells us how space travel feels, and how much it can stretch a person's ability to adapt. In other words, he makes life on a space station real. The reality of space travel isn't the photo of the waving astronaut and victorious headline on the top of the front page. Reality is the bureaucracy within NASA, an abusive and reckless mission control in Moscow, power failures, aerosolized antifreeze in a zero-G environment, and osteoporosis.
Life in space is also fantastic, though, with great opportunities for an enthusiastic photographer, flawless views of the night sky, and even cosmic rays creating ghostly streaks of light in the retina.
Off the Planet also reminds us how much of NASA's agenda is public relations and foreign policy. But hasn't it always been so? Sure. Ironically, the space shuttle, the vehicle that carried Linenger to Mir, was derailed in the 1960's by the race to reach the Moon. But putting Americans on Mir is different. It is supposed to bring our nations together. This is terribly misguided; public money could be better spent for social programs, even if they are implemented in a foreign country. The reader wonders as he/she turns pages in disbelief, "how did we end up sending astronauts to Mir, and what are we doing building an international space station with the Russians! "
And what does it take to make someone as resilient and resourceful as Linenger retire? Well, having a family, for one. The long-term health issues of life on a spacestation may be another. But there must be more to it, because Linenger was such a natural for the job of astronaut that he was given carte blanche to choose a mission. I propose that the straw was Linenger's realization that NASA (and its budget) comes first and the astronauts come second.
Overall, this book is an important read for the armchair astronaut. After finishing Off the Planet, you may decide that your barcalounger beats the hell out of Mir.
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on January 19, 2002
There has not been much written about NASA post-Apollo. This book tell's the author's story of going to Mir. It is an amazing story of surviving a fire in space and near collision with another ship on the station. My only complaint is that I would have liked a little more depth and detail and the author's experiences.
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on August 7, 2000
... I had to get the book. I attended a professional conference in June and he was a keynote speaker. The conferences wasn't about space, or medicene, but rather computer software. Not exactly what you'd expect to see. However, his interaction with the audience, his emotion when discussing his kids (both born and 'in the oven') made quite a few people thankful that no one could see the tears in their eyes.
Jerry didn't display the ego that some other reviewers mentioned, but rather as much humility and pride (in his country) as I've seen in a long time. Many of the audience members I spoke to later said they went back to their rooms to talk to their spouse/kids, because of the message Jerry sent.
I did find the book a little dry in places, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the first non-fiction books I've read in a LONG time!
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on January 24, 2000
Mr. Linenger's writing of his adventure off the planet provided a refreshing insight into the everyday goings on in our and Russia's space program. With a well portioned mix of personal adventure and political wranglings, he has delivered a story that's most shocking point is that it's NOT fiction. Easy and enjoyable reading. M. Humphries
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on February 6, 2000
This was an easy read of a scientific experiment. It was scarey to find out what really happened when one of our own went to spend time on the Russian space station. The book reads like fiction.
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on February 6, 2000
This was an easy read of a scientific experiment. It was scarey to find out what really happened when one of our own went to spend time on the Russian space station. The book reads like fiction.
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on September 1, 2001
Enjoyable. Any insider's view of the space program is bound to be interesting. Although Linenger has some personal issues (as we all do), it's inspiring to read about an over-achiever.
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on January 31, 2001
I enjoyed this book very much. Linenger isn't a great writer, and the book could have stood a little editing, but I felt the author did a very good job of sharing what life in space is like. He answered many of my questions about life in space and explained technical and scientific matters in a very understandable way. When he said part of Mir looks like "four buses were driven into a four-way intersection at the same time" I have no doubt about what Mir looks like! So what if he seems egotistical and complained a lot. He took time to write a very readable book about a rare experience.
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