The technical details tended to make my eyes glaze over, but fortunately I was able to catch the important points out of the mass of information to move the game forward. In addition, the hero's attitude helped: there are few things better than a protagonist or narrator with attitude to catch one's interest.
I am embarrassed to say that I had to resort to hints for the engine-repair puzzle, especially as I then recognised this as a puzzle that I'd solved before, with no trouble at all ... when I was ten. In my defence, it never occurred to me that I could move the reflective lenses further than the square of points that you need to hit. Then again, the same could be same of the puzzle as it was presented to me when I was ten. Still, I thought the puzzles were good, and the final puzzle would probably have been a great "aha!" moment if the previous one hadn't gotten me started on the hints.
Storywise, I'm guessing that the "punishment" is less a punishment per se, and more a case of "he's getting too independent, time to let him spread his wings a little"; the "accident" that supposedly precipitated the punishment was really more of an excuse to launch the exercise, and if our hero hadn't done anything, it might have been presented to him as a "chore" perhaps a few months later. Maybe I'm way too certain of the protectiveness of parents, but I suspect that the ship would have had failsafe measures in place to prevent our hero from actually dying in the exercise; unfortunately, these measures would not have taken into account the appearance of pirates and claim-jumpers.
I am disappointed that we don't get to see further interactions between the two mining families, especially in relation to their conflicting claims on the asteroid field.
As a breakfast, this is Cheerios and chocolate milk, toast and jam. And Ovaltine to wash it all down.