MISSION UPDATES  Intro   Training   Prelaunch   Launch   In space   Landing  
Rollout 1: The train leaving the assembly hall.

Rollout 2: Our beautiful booster

Rollout 3: The white sun of the desert

Rollout 4: The waiting arms of the pad

Rollout 5: Like a new bullet in the breech

Day before launch 1: Crew exercises

Day before launch 2: Crew lunch

Day before launch 3: Watch tradition

Day before launch 4: With Sergey Krikalev

Final Fit Check 1: License plate for a spacecraft

All large machines have a plate showing the part number and a serial number, a spacecraft is no exception. Our plate has been hand painted with a certain flair, showing the number 224 and we got to sign it also. I . . .
Final Fit Check 2: Cockpit ready

All the tanks are filled, the pyros installed, batteries are charged, red covers removed from the valves, the spacecraft is chomping at the bit. But it will have to wait until Thursday when it can perform in a sta . . .
Final Fit Check 3: Commander checks the details

Genaddy is sitting up in his seat and comfortably checks the “composition” of the cockpit – what is where and that everything is accounted for. Behind him on the wall the survival gear that . . .
Baykonur Museum 1: Gagarin in 1961

The official paper of the Soviet administration – Pravda, on Apr 13, 1961, the day after Gagarin’s flight. The headline on the top says: Great Event in the History of Mankind. I remember at the time as . . .
Baykonur Museum 2: Space age started here

The console to start the R-7 rocket that propelled the first Sputnik, the first spacecraft to reach the moon, and the first person to space. It is not that complex: rocket science is not necessarily “rocket . . .
Baykonur Museum 3: Korolev's voice

This is a really well-made tape recorder from the 60’s that still operates (notice the green light) and plays Korolev’s voice. Actually, like many industrial or military recorders of that time and also . . .
Baykonur Museum 4: From first spacecraft

The control panel of Gagarin’s spacecraft, called Vostok (“East”). Most of the panel is occupied by the mechanical analog navigation device which survived into the Soyuz days until now it is simu . . .
Baykonur Museum 5: The latest spacefarers

I am in excellent company with the other American and international cosmonauts that have flown on the Soyuz and whose pictures covers a whole wall of the museum.
Baykonur Museum 6: Korolev's room

Not very far from the launch pad, next to the current museum is the tiny stone house with this room where Korolev slept and worked while in Baykonur. Next to his bed is his phone, and there is also a safe for the . . .
Baykonur Press Day 1: Backgammon game

When the press says “action” we must do as they say, in this case they wanted me to play a game. People without masks are part of the entourage who also stay in quarantine with us.
Baykonur Press Day 2: Planting my tree

In the gardens there is a beautiful avenue lined with trees that have been planted by the cosmonauts, starting with Gagarin. I am very proud to have planted my own tree, even if two years late. After the planting . . .
Public Day 1: Looking at the Media

Just before we entered quarantine, we had a day of meeting the media and visiting the Kremlin wall and Roskosmos headquarters. I always wanted to take a picture from the dais to show the cameras shooting us. Genna . . .
Public Day 2: St. Basil's Cathedral

On our way to the Kremlin wall passing by the wonderful onion-shaped towers of the iconic St. Basil’s cathedral on the Red Square.
Public Day 3: Korolev's grave

So important was space to the Soviets that the chief designer - Korolev – as well as Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space and the four Soviet cosmonauts that died during space missions are buried here in the . . .
Public Day 4: Visit to the Kremlin

The Kremlin is really a large walled fortress, the historical home of the czar and now of the president of Russia. There are many historical buildings, museums and churches within, but our lightning schedule allow . . .
Public Day 5: In Gagarin's room

The museum at Star City has the book that is signed by all the cosmonauts before the flight. Behind me is Gagarin’s uniform with the medals that he has received. He tragically died in a training accident in . . .
Training to Fly 1: Tilting the bed

The bed where I sleep is tilted to 6 degrees and it will be raised to 8 degrees in a few days. This is just one of the measures that prepares us for weightlessness. The first day I know that something is wrong, bu . . .
Training to Fly 2: Rotating chair and tilt table

We have about one hour reserved each day to practice on the rotating chair and the tilt table, which is in the background. Gennady is up to 20 minutes on the chair and the other day the chair broke down and refuse . . .
Training to Fly 3: Tilt table

The idea here is to simulate a particular bothersome aspect of weightlessness, namely that the heart keeps pumping blood hard into our heads even when it does not have to fight gravity. So we are tilted back and f . . .
Training to Fly 4: Stuffy head

Who is this guy? It’s me after one minute hanging down on the tilt table. We will take a similar shot right after we arrive in orbit so we can compare the expressions. The full face and cheeks remind me very . . .
Training to Fly 5: Symbolic activities

A fair amount of time is dedicated to “symbolic activities” which mostly means signing a very large number of brochures, pictures, and envelopes. I came well prepared this time, bringing my own Sharpie . . .
Quarantine 1: ESA experiment

One of the interesting ESA experiments that I volunteered for is the measurement of bone loss during spaceflight. Here they take a high-resolution scan of the bones near my ankle. The measurements are repeated sev . . .
Quarantine 2: Departure to the launch site

Time to say goodbye to Star City and to winter and take the plane to Baykonur, the launching site. We fly with about 60 support personnel in two planes belonging to GCTC (the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center). Th . . .
Quarantine 3: Arrival in Baykonur

Kazakhstan is a huge and empty country. Russia rents the base and the use of a large area where the launches cross and where the spacecraft may be recovered.

From the airport to our hotel we drive through bl . . .

Quarantine 4: Our Hotel

This is the best hotel in town, in fact IMHO is one of the best hotels in the world, the “Cosmonaut” in Baykonur – best in the sense of being very exclusive and in that I spent some very happy we . . .
Quarantine 5: Deja vu

Some hotels offer you monogrammed bathrobes, but where can you have your own door? Here is my suite with my signature from 2007 together with the signatures of the other spaceflight participants and astronauts.
Fit Check 1: Test Center

Our first visit is to the spacecraft for the “fit check”. It is a 40 minute drive in the desert to this sign marking the entrance to the “RKK Energiya Space Test Center”.
Fit Check 2: Formerly super-secret building

The large building houses the facilities for the final integration and checkout of the Soyuz and Progress (freighter) spacecraft. This is where we suit up before the flight. The “declaration of readiness&rdq . . .
Fit Check 3: The launch shroud

The spacecraft in the background which is now surrounded with the scaffolding, will be covered by this substantial launch shroud. Note the bolts protruding from the nose of the shroud – the escape rocket wil . . .
Fit Check 4: Soyuz spacecraft

Our spacecraft #224 without its launch shroud and surrounded with a lot of red protection. The red color is used only for “remove before flight” items, because there are so many of them that it would b . . .
Fit Check 5: The return capsule

On the way up we pass the outside of the landing capsule wrapped with a thin but extremely effective heat protection layer. On two recent missions (but not on the last one) the sections of the spacecraft did not s . . .
Fit Check 6: The living compartment

Here we are on the third level in front of the hatch. Our first trial will be in flight suits. This part of the spacecraft, called the living compartment, is not protected for re-entry, instead, the thin (5/64 in) . . .
Fit Check 7: View from the inside

The next check is in full space regalia and the verification of the pressure integrity of the spacesuit takes place in a viewing room where the press – or in this test day the brass – is isolated from . . .
Fit Check 8: Medical sensor

Under our spacesuit now we have the real sensors that tells the computer the EKG, the temperature, and the breathing. I am also trying on my unbreakable super reading glasses which are improved from last time.
Fit Check 9: Suiting up

We are putting on the real space suits to make sure that they work together with the spacecraft. Note the masks the non-quarantined personnel are wearing. My helper is removing my extra set of socks that protected . . .
Fit Check 10: Pressure check

After the suit is donned we perform the pressure integrity test in a free standing seat. We have seen the white “parade gloves” which are only for show. Here we put on the real gloves that make the wea . . .
Fit Check 11: On the way to the spacecraft again

Dressed up for the second fit check we are walking by the press microphones. In our hands the portable fan units that ventilate the suit so that we do not get too hot. Notice the two cables exiting the suits on th . . .
Fit Check 12: In the spacecraft

The picture was taken from the outside of the landing capsule through its porthole on my side. I am handing Mike an extension cord that feeds my work light that we temporarily use for illumination. The hatch to th . . .
Fit Check 13: Tired but happy

We exited from the spacecraft soaking wet, fortunately a nurse waited for us and wiped our faces and hands so that we could pose here for the cameras. The entrance hatch is directly behind Gennady. Note also . . .
Fit check 14: Drying the suits

Because of the hard work and the lack of ventilation the suits get wet during use and they are left here under pressure to dry. We all had quick showers and now have an opportunity to play with our alter egos. The . . .
Fit check 15: Cigar lighter in space

During fit check we get to practice with the Iridium satellite phone that is part of our emergency equipment as a globally usable backup means of communications after landing. The problem arises that the phone wor . . .
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