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Too Far From Home: A Story of Life and Death…

Too Far From Home: A Story of Life and Death in Space

by Chris Jones

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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"Foam had often fallen from the tank (during Expedition Six's own launch, fragments had peppered Endeavour's belly hard enough to crack it's heat-resistant ceramic tiles), but it had never wielded the heft to damage the shuttle fatally. Now, although there were still engineers and technicians within NASA who continued to dismiss the theory, it looked more and more plausible. It was finally confirmed when a piece of foam was fired out of a gun at a reinforced carbon-carbon panel, replicating the collision, and it made like a cannonball. Looking at the entrance wound gave every astronaut the feeling that they had cheated death only because the aim of their own lost foam had been less true. It was as though they had each been lucky enough to duck bullets, but their friends had not.
For the men up on station, having survived the trip up and having yet to make the trip down, the realization left them swallowing a hot, sick feeling. They suffered from the sweats that follow catastrophe averted, the closest of calls.

Too Far from Home is the story of Expedition Six, the Russian and two Americans living on board the International Space Station when the Columbia disintegrated over the Southwest United States. When the all-stop was placed on Shuttle flights, they were stranded in Space with no one in Mission Control willing to venture a return date. It took two years after the Challenger disaster for the program to recover and they didn't know if it would be that long again. The unease of the crew was compounded by their grief for their friends and colleagues. At first they stayed busy, approaching the situation logically. They knew they had to stay healthy and strong so they exercised longer, they stretched their food rations and began to be even more diligent about the maintenance tasks on the ISS.
After several months their attitude about space and about the Station shifted. It wasn't just a temporary hotel room now, it had become their true home. They became so familiar with it and comfortable with their routines that when NASA found a way to bring them back to Earth, it caused them grief all over again. Six was just further evidence of how Space leaves its mark on those who encounter it. A great read.

I enjoyed Jones' storytelling. He gives you background on both the US and USSR's space programs and backgrounds on each man, easing you into the situation. You really come along side them as they founder and then find themselves again and you feel like you know these men personally. Highly recommended for those who enjoy Astronaut biographies and Space history. ( )
2 vote VictoriaPL | Feb 6, 2017 |
A story of life and death in space. on February 1, 2003, ten astronauts were orbiting the planet, seven were headed back to earth on the space shuttle "Columbia". They never made it, and the three men left behind, found themselves "Too Far From Home"
  paamember | Jan 13, 2016 |
How come I never knew about this story? Why didn't the press cover it at all? Probably because a deft hand like the author's wasn't available to tell it. The narrative is almost dreamlike, from a complete trance-induced point of view, which makes it a worthy way of relaying this incredible story, plucked from the galaxy of incredible stories that comprise the amazing space program that awestruck me in my youth. I learned things about the program I never knew, and the author really gets into the heart of the technical details and the human emotions of success and failure. Never wavering, all tangents lead back to the story at hand. A marvelous storytelling achievement.
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
Note: This review is of the book as presented on the CBC podcast "Between the Covers", starting the week of May 18, 2010.

A highly informative look at the story of Expedition 6, a three-man mission to the International Space Station that was stranded temporarily in space when their ride home, the space shuttle Columbia, suffered the tragic accident in 2003. This book was a departure from the Between the Covers podcast's usual fare (Canadian novels, generally contemporary), but it was an excellent read all the same.

I learned a lot about the space program and astronauts' day-to-day lives from this book. For example, a space suit weighs 86 pounds BEFORE the helmet, and food tastes blander in space than it does on Earth, because astronauts' faces and sinuses get swollen (probably from the lack of gravity). One of the astronauts in the book sprinkled green chilies on everything he ate, and the sinus thing is probably why. Actually, the parts about the effects of space on the human body were very interesting in a gross kind of way. The author's description of the astronauts' insides floating around was rather nausea-inducing, and the thought that 8 Gs will almost pinch your lungs shut is terrifying. Vivid details like these really capture the reader's interest. The book was also amusing in places, with quotes such as "weightlessness makes for some terrific air guitar", and the astronaut's prayer of sorts: "God help you if you screw up." (That one was more funny in an only-half-joking kind of way.)

William B. Davis, aka "The Smoking Man" from The X-Files, narrates the 15-minute episodes very well, speaking at a natural pace and adding some emotion where warranted, especially when the book uses direct speech. He also got me all choked up when the book discussed the history of manned space missions and in particular the Challenger disaster. That was a terrible tragedy, as was Columbia. Space travel is a very dangerous job!

Overall I would definitely recommend this book to people interested in Columbia and the space shuttle program in general. The part where the author discusses the history of manned space missions kind of lags, but the rest of the book is very interesting and may inspire you to do further research on the subject. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Feb 26, 2011 |
From Nov, 2002 to April, 2003, three men waited in the International Space Station waited for their ride home. It was delayed by the event of the Challenger shuttle disaster. While NASA tried to learn the reason of the failure and build a new shuttle to retrieve them, the astronauts Ken Bowersox, Don Pettit, and Nikolai Budarin waited, carefully reserving food and water, excercised as best they could, and devised experiments to keep them challenged. Exciting and fact filled, the story was marred by language that was a little stilted and sometimes clumsy. ( )
  mamzel | Jan 29, 2010 |
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Chris Jonesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davies, ErikNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Lee, who always brings me back.
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Only minutes earlier, they had been something else - something big enough to be held in the hearts of millions - and soon they would be that big again, but now they were just three men in a bucket floating on the ocean, still far from home.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385514654, Hardcover)

An incredible, true-life adventure set on the most dangerous frontier of all—outer spaceIn the nearly forty years since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, space travel has come to be seen as a routine enterprise—at least until the shuttle Columbia disintegrated like the Challenger before it, reminding us, once again, that the dangers are all too real.
Too Far from Home vividly captures the hazardous realities of space travel. Every time an astronaut makes the trip into space, he faces the possibility of death from the slightest mechanical error or instance of bad luck: a cracked O-ring, an errant piece of space junk, an oxygen leak . . . There are a myriad of frighteningly probable events that would result in an astronaut’s death. In fact, twenty-one people who have attempted the journey have been killed.
Yet for a special breed of individual, the call of space is worth the risk. Men such as U.S. astronauts Donald Pettit and Kenneth Bowersox, and Russian flight engineer Nikolai Budarin, who in November 2002 left on what was to be a routine fourteen-week mission maintaining the International Space Station.
But then, on February 1, 2003, the Columbia exploded beneath them. Despite the numerous news reports examining the tragedy, the public remained largely unaware that three men remained orbiting the earth. With the launch program suspended indefinitely, these astronauts had suddenly lost their ride home.
Too Far from Home chronicles the efforts of the beleaguered Mission Controls in Houston and Moscow as they work frantically against the clock to bring their men safely back to Earth, ultimately settling on a plan that felt, at best, like a long shot.
Latched to the side of the space station was a Russian-built Soyuz TMA-1 capsule, whose technology dated from the late 1960s (in 1971 a malfunction in the Soyuz 11 capsule left three Russian astronauts dead.) Despite the inherent danger, the Soyuz became the only hope to return Bowersox, Budarin, and Pettit home.
Chris Jones writes beautifully of the majesty and mystique of space travel, while reminding us all how perilous it is to soar beyond the sky.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:37 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Every time an astronaut makes the trip into space, he faces the risk of death from the slightest mechanical error or instance of bad luck. In February 2003, American astronauts Donald Pettit and Kenneth Bowersox and Russian flight engineer Nikolai Budarin were on what was to be a routine fourteen-week mission maintaining the International Space Station. But then the shuttle Columbia exploded beneath them. With the launch program suspended indefinitely, these astronauts had suddenly lost their ride back to earth. This book offers a detailed portrait of the odd life of the people who live in zero gravity, as it chronicles the efforts of the beleaguered mission controls in Houston and Moscow working frantically to bring their men home--ultimately settling on a plan that felt, at best, like a long shot.--From publisher description.… (more)

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