Fragile Oasis

Connecting Space and Earth: Learn. Act. Make a Difference.

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A Poem for Saturday: Embrace Me, May 5, 2003

Oh Mother Earth, embrace me with all of your weight.
I am pressed into your bosom and like Atlas, I carry the World’s load.
I leave the comforts of an orbital womb and am born a second time.

Expedition 6 crewmates Ken Bowersox, Nikolai Budarin and I leaving the International Space Station in the Soyuz TMA-1 capsule that brought us back to Mother Earth May 3, 2003.

Rudely thrust into the world of weight, my chest sinks from heavy load, my arms do not move at my command and my head spins.

But there is work to do, we must keep our wits. We want to survive this test to prove our worthiness for life on Earth.

Expedition 30 crewmates Commander Dan Burbank and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin land on Earth in a remote area outside of the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on the morning of Friday, April 27, 2012.

And finally, our just reward,the sweet smell of freshly tilled earth and of crushed spring grass.

The Sparrow’s song greets our ears. Did we perish and land on Heaven’s door?

I spew bile and mucus into desert soil, a reminder that I am still among the living.

Oh Mother Earth, I have returned. Embrace me!

Embraced by Mother Earth just a few hours earlier, crewmate and Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank is about to take off for a flight home to the United States, and the embrace of family, friends and colleagues.

Editor's Note: Don Pettit originally wrote this poem on May 5, 2003, two days after returning to Earth following his first mission to the International Space Station as the science officer for Expedition 6. Air and Space magazine published his reflection "If I Were to Land on Mars..." in the November 2008 issue.