Two weeks into his nearly five-month mission aboard the Russian space station Mir in 1997, NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger wrote one of many letters to his one-year-old son John: “Together, we have a good mission, we learn more and we hopefully make life in the future a bit better for you.
Anyway, that’s the hope that keeps us going, keeps us striving to do our best.” During 132 weightless days, the Michigan native and former naval flight surgeon executed 120 experiments for the U.S. science program, took more than 10,000 photos of Earth and, with his cosmonaut crewmates, saved the space station (and their lives) from a perilous on-board fire.
For his contribution to furthering geographic education around the world, Linenger was awarded The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s Gold Medal at the Fellows Dinner held in Ottawa in November.
With what still sounds like fresh wonder, Linenger describes the “privilege” of space flight, of viewing the Earth in its entirety, the sun illuminating the edge of Japan and the northern lights dancing as the space station passed over the southern tip of Hudson Bay. It’s a vision that contributed to his powerful sense of world community. “I was honoured,” says Linenger, “when the world-renowned Royal Canadian Geographical Society validated that I had, indeed, been successful in advancing mankind’s knowledge of geography on a truly global level.”