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The astronaut of earthy wisdom

india Updated: Nov 22, 2008 01:22 IST
Amitava Sanyal

If promises such as ‘zero-to-60 in less than 10 seconds’ get your adrenaline rushing, then consider this. Shaking up the midday somnolence of delegates at the Summit was a man who has zipped from zero to Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) in seven minutes — that too a number of times. And details such as these are just some of the things that make astronaut Jerry M. Linenger an extraordinary presence.

But then, how can you sum up 55 years “lived in three parts”? The first phase of Linenger’s life was as an epidemiologist with the US Navy. The second, the five gruelling-yet-magical months away from Earth in Mir space station. And the third, current one, is as a ‘down-to-earth’ father of four.

The session went as a roller-coaster. One minute, Linenger was spewing a torrent of jargons at jet speed — punctuating it with whoops of ‘yahoo’ and ‘bang-bang’ — to explain his predicament in zero-gravity; the next moment he was down to crawling speed, popping out wisdom such as “take a deep breath and count your blessings” and “do not worry about the world’s problems while going to bed”.

With all the energetic exhortation accompanied with graphic description of life in a cramped spacecraft, it was as if the large conference room had become a zero-gravity chamber. The astronaut ended with one little “task” for the gathered delegates: “Just like acting like a kid again, with the same bright way of looking at things.” One would believe that’s exactly what Linenger was for half- an-hour on the stage.