Baikonur – Day 4

Another beautiful day in the winter desert!  Every day the sun seems to be shining or the snow is falling.  Not bad.  Cold, but not too cold…well that is because we get to live in a building…

My room...

My room…

I mention that because today was tour day for the backup crew, rest day for the prime crew.  It is Sunday after all.  After staying up to watch the first half of the Army-Navy game I was thinking a rest day would have been nice, but the tour was fantastic.

A view of the flags from my window!

A view of the flags from my window!

The backup crew, some of the doctors and trainers went on a driving tour around the city and then to the museum.  The driving tour was great and of course filled with the photographers taking pictures continuously.  It was pretty cool.  We laid flowers at the Gagarin statue and the Korolov statue.  We drove by the large Soyuz rocket which was technical trainer for the folks here.  We drove around the town to see where the first school was, the stadium, the pool, the sports complex, the administrative building and ended up at the cultural center and museum.  A lady by the name Galina was our tour guide on the bus and she explained a lot of the history of the place.  She pointed out the place where Gagarin and Titov were named the first crew and back up by Korolov – ground zero.  It is pretty amazing to think a lot of the space program started here.

The museum itself is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.  I am thinking it would be a really good thing for the guests to go to in the spring.  I am pretty sure it is walking distance from the Centralnya hotel and the Yurt Restaurant.  There is history there of many rocket projects the Russians have worked on, including international, and intercontinental ideas…funny to put those two words in a sentence together.  There are many great old photographs, lots of mockups making it easy to compare rocket sizes, etc.  There is a little space seat for a dog even.  There is some really cool history of how the place was started, what is was called and why.  How the workers lived in tents while building the launch pads.  How they build the city in fact.  The museum really gives you a feel for how desolate the place was when they started creating it.

There is also one room there dedicated to the history of the Kazakh people and their history.  There was an explanation of how a Yurt was made and how it functions.  We got to try on traditional Kazakh clothes and sit for picture.  I am sure it is funny, but it is really nice.  The young Kazakh lady who gave that talk was nervous, but did an outstanding job, speaking in English.  Of course she also speaks Russian and her native language, as well as German.  I was afraid to ask if she knew any more languages – great!

While we were there, they were also having dancing lessons for youngsters.  We were watching over the balcony.  Pretty cool how serious these kids were taking the class.  It was sort of like ballroom dancing – they looked good.

Now back at the Cosmonaut Hotel.  We now get to join in on the rest – until lunch, and then rest again until banya…

Well, better than that…today was a progress launch, so we all piled onto the roof to watch.  It is about 60 km away, so we really only saw the smoke trail as it flew away.  The coolest thing though, was after about 3 minutes we heard it.  Sound travels fast, but not that fast – it was impressive.

Aki and I worked out in the gym – joined shortly afterward by the Russian flight surgeon who is keeping tabs on all of us and our Soyuz trainers.   Good folks.

It has been another great day here.  Big snowflakes – crystals make the place beautiful.  The snow reminds me of the Christmas cartoons like Rudolf.  Sparkly!

Banya was great as usual.  We used the icicles from the roof to cooling sticks in the banya.  It is pretty neat.  We tried to take pictures, by my BB kept fogging up.  I will work on it though.

Time to relax and go to sleep.  Schedule is out for tomorrow…

Love, s

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