Baikonur – Day 1

It was an exciting trip here…

Packed everything up last night “just in case” back at Cottage 4 in Star City. We were up a little late have one last toast and I put Flat Gorby on the wall at Shep’s bar.

Got up early this morning to finish packing my final stuff away in case someone else was coming to live in cottage 4. We had to be ready to go by 0740.

Dropped off at the Star City Headquarters building. There we were accompanied by management from Moscow and there at the Center, as well as all the astro’s and cosmos in training. Don’s family – wife and twin 11 year old boy, Andre’s family – wife and 3 kids, Oleg’s family – wife and 2 kids were with us as well.

There was a huge spread of food on the table which no one touches, as well as champagne, vodka and water. Everyone has a glass of something – even the kids. It is all ceremonial, but everyone has to participate in the toasting. Management toasts from all the agencies present, Russian, American, European and Japanese. Older cosmonauts toasted as well. One who just got back from space was there to toast us all of. It was really quite a family event. No press in the building, only us with family and friends, although very crowded.

Then we all walked to the big space statue and the prime crew had pictures with their families, then we joined them, then all the cosmo/Astros joined in. More people and press arrived to see us off in the buses. We got in the buses and drove away to the airport nearby.

Some waiting around, going through customs, but we got on the plane and left promptly at 1030. Yuri, Aki and I had a compartment to ourselves with the head of training. We slept a little, and then had “lunch”. A couple more toasts and some of that food we saw on the table in the morning for the toasts. It was actually pretty fun. Tongue was put on my plate…it wasn’t bad, but really, not sure I can eat that again – the thought of it sort of makes me sick.

After visiting all the groups on the plane, Roscosmos management and our trainers and enjoying their toasts and with them, we were ready to land. I made chocolate chip bar cookies for our trainers and they were liking them along with sala (bacon fat on bread) and pickles. Interesting food here for sure…

Yuri explained that the party will start only after we arrive. We was correct. We flew down here to baikanor in a separate airplane than the prime crew – just in case again…The prime folks land first, then us. Everyone is waiting for our plane to get here so we can get going to the cosmonaut hotel and start things. A fun reception since Yuri has to report once we climb down the stairs. Funny, actually… then we get in the bus (the buses which will take us to the launch pad- they have nice chairs and cooling connections for our suits. We drive through the city – sort of broken down with interesting relics of the space hayday here. It has snowed, so the streets and sidewalks are white, but it is clear blue sky. Pretty surreal.

So we get here, drop our bags – we carry our own stuff everywhere – no porters or support folks we do it all ourselves. Up three floors to our rooms. Aki and yuri are together. I am alone – thankfully… Don is with his flight surgeon, Joe Dervay. Oleg and Andre room together. Pretty cool hallway –doors with the signatures of those who have stayed there and flew. Another tradition which I will talk about in a couple weeks.

We have a full lunch, soup, some mystery meat and “greens” . Enough for me for sure. It was time to take a nap for an hour. Then we got briefed on tomorrow- we will go into the spacecraft and check it out. Primarily it will be a communications check. The prime crew will get in their spacesuits. We will only be in our flight suits. We don’t want to mess anything up for the prime crew – they will be responsible for messing up their own vehicle. I saw this because it is very tight in there and difficult to get in and out of the hatch without hitting something. We will do our check next spring and “mess up” our own vehicle.

Then dinner – again full meal. I hear there is a gym and a sauna though. That will happen tomorrow evening I hope or I am going to get fat here.

I got my internet and phone hooked up too, so now I am online and with all of you. I wish you could be here. I promise to send pictures. I just dug out my little camera and I have a really nice one to take good pictures of Don with.

So, sorry for a long note, just wanted to jot down what life has been like. I need to get some sleep and will keep writing if you guys are interested.

Last meal before Baikonur. We are wearing our jackets today to the fitcheck!!! Looks good. Thanks Kevin,

ew mosque they just built here. I couldn’t get the picture of the wild horse running by. Too fast!

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