Space Trip 'Changed

My Life' - NASA Astronaut
By Sunita Menon

"In five months in space, I have seen unidentified flying objects for sure. Sometimes I looked out of the window and I could see a metallic thing like a spoon flying methodically."
DUBAI -- A Nasa astronaut said yesterday that his experience in outer space has changed his whole perspective towards life.
"I am a different person now," said astronaut Dr. Jerry Linenger whose challenging five month journey into space created history. "When you are out there looking at the Earth below, you see the big picture that changes your whole outlook.
It's kind of strange. You have the big view of the world, but you are alone, you are cut off. You start to realise a lot about yourself and human nature, and ultimately it changes your whole perspective towards life."
Isolated, cramped and living in stark darkness for five months in space, speaking only Russian, fighting the worst fire ever to occur in space, tumbling out of control inside a power-dead space station in utter blackness with oxygen running low. All this was in a day's work for Linenger.
He was the first American ever to undock from a space station in a Russian Soyuz capsule and the first American to do a spacewalk in a Russian spacesuit.
At mission completion, Dr Linenger held the endurance record for the longest time in space for an American male. He told journalists in Dubai, "What was unique in my space experience was living on my own with two Russians for five months.
"During that time we faced numerous life-threatening events, including repeated failure of critical life-support systems, a near-collision that sent the space station tumbling uncontrollably through space."
In spite of these challenges, Dr Linenger and his two Russian crewmates accomplished all mission goals - shuttle dockings, spacewalk, Soyuz flyaround and all the U.S. science experiments.
On completing the mission, he logged 50 million miles - the equivalent of over 110 round trips to the moon - travelling at an average speed of 18,000 miles per hour. "Back on earth I count my blessings every day."
About the value of teamwork and determination, Dr Linenger said: "One thing that I really learnt was that everybody talks about teamwork, teamwork and teamwork. But I found that if you are not individually competent and if you don't prepare yourself well, you are worthless to other people."
In a lighter vein, when asked whether the controversy over UFO's holds any truth, Dr. Linenger said: "I have been asked that question so many times. In five months in space, I have seen unidentified flying objects for sure.
"Sometimes I looked out of the window and I could see a metallic thing like a spoon flying methodically. The biggest problem in space is that it is very hard to judge distance. It could have been a spoon or a space ship thousands of miles away.
"Let me tell you one thing, I have never heard someone knock at the door and say - Hey Jerry let me in!"
Dr. Linenger was in Dubai to speak at the BurJuman Retail Conference at the Emirates Towers Hotel.


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