In space now for nearly four months, NASA astronaut Norman Thagard said Saturday "it's tough to be away from home" and promised his family that when he returns to Earth he'll stay put.
Thagard, who has spent more time in space than any other American, was the star of the show in space-to-ground television interviews. He said from the orbiting Atlantis/Mir complex that he misses Kirby, his wife, and their three sons and appreciates them more than ever.
"I'm going to come home and probably stay home a little longer this time," said Thagard. "I feel badly sometimes that I get to have all this fun."
Thagard has lost up to 13 pounds in orbit. NASA biochemist and nutritionist Helen Lane blames water loss that is typical in space flight, along with the Russian food on Mir: Dehydrated borscht, canned meats and his least favorite of all, canned perch.
Thagard, a physician who turns 52 on Monday, said he feels fine. His biggest concerns about prolonged periods of weightlessness, he said, are calcium loss in bones and radiation exposure.