Baikonur – Day 5 & 6

Another nice day in Kazakhstan…

Not so clear today – a little over cast but still nice.  Not much wind so a good day to go for a jog and check on my doggies at the end of the path.

Quiet day here today.  The lady at the front desk – called a dejurny – is an old friend of mine, Masha.  I think she will be here for the rest of the week so we can catch up.  A couple of years ago I was here as the Astronaut office rep for the launch of Mike Barratt with Gennady Padalka.  As the rep, I stayed in the Cosmo Hotel at Launch -3 until launch.  I met Masha back than when she ran the bar here.  Her and I stayed up late one night with others…  I saw her again when I was her for Tracy’s launch and we had some Champagne and chocolate after watching her successful launch.  That was a lot of fun.  Even though it seems like I only see her every couple years, it seems like we had talked only yesterday.

Easy day so far.  A little flying on the simulator downstairs with our crew.  Yuri is funny – sort of divided up the tasks so he had one hand controller and I had the other.  We flew off of one port and docked to another port.  I love the way he does things.  Pretty relaxed and nonchalant about stuff.  He was happy to be done after one round of that, so we asked and Aki got a chance to try it out today as well.   It is a little different than flying an airplane, the robotic arm or the shuttle.  Of course there are hand controllers, one rotational, one translational.  The rotational one is a little different because it is like flying from the tail of the vehicle.  Translation is pretty much the same, but jets are at the back of the vehicle so you get a little opposite sense for the first second you put in a left or right impulse.  At Star City we do this in a trainer, he we did it with a laptop simulator.  It is pretty nice though.  The instructor has the contact speeds and docking location to “grade” you on.  It is really just for practice here, we had out “tests” on this before we left star city.

Then we had class to review flight procedures for launch.  I have my flight books here – they are pretty!  We don’t want to mess these up, so we have left them with our instructors for the most part.  I brought me copy of the main procedures to review “just in case”.  We have books on Orbital flight, Off-nominal situations, reference material and reserve procedures.  The real book all They all have colorful covers.  Pretty neat to see and feel the real things.  I am a little nervous to write in them, so I am just studying them for now.  If Don or Andre to slip on the ice, then I will be a little more aggressive and transfer my notes.  My fingers are crossed that there will be no slipping, everyone will launch when they are supposed to and we will get to come back here in the spring.

Aki and I played a wild game of badminton with our Soyuz instructor and Dr. Savin.  Dr. Savin is the doctor here who is essentially in charge of quarantine – we affectionately call him Dr. No.  he doesn’t always say no, but he is the one who holds the line when folks ask if they can see outsiders, etc.  Quarantine is a funny thing here as I have experienced it in the past.  We will see how it goes this time around.   So, back to the badminton game.  Dima was schooling us on the court, but we were catching on and imitating his tactics.  It was a fun and intense game at times.  Lots of good volleys.  I am going to need to work on my skills…

We played sort of early, 4:30 so the trainers and teams here could get ready for their shashlik party – hence the reason I didn’t send this earlier…we got done playing badminton, showered and headed down to the party.  It was fun – lots of toasts, lots of good conversations and good food.  We skipped dinner (again, too much food) and then went to have a teleconference with the on orbit crew.

Dan, Anton and Anatoly sounded great on the phone.  Talking fast, anxious to have the next Soyuz and its crew to come join them.  I hear Dan is working really hard so it will be good for him to have Don and Andre join him.  Don asked great questions about surprised, etc.  I thought the fact that they were rushed for Rendezvous seemed a little strange, but I will keep that in mind.  Dan suggested getting going an orbit before the flight plan suggests.  Not a bad idea.  They are getting the next Soyuz exercise equipment all ready to go, readying their sleep stations, etc.  It seems the next crew will be able to hit the ground running when they get there .  Pretty cool to really know they are leaving the planet in a week or so…wow!!!

Next we all seemed to get back to the Shashlik party.  Bakes told me that the sheriff was there and wanted to introduce us to get ready for Mike’s arrival here.  The sheriff seemed really nice.  He suggested that Mike just stay here and work/play with him while I am on orbit.  It could be sort of fun.  He has been here since 2004 I think and I think he will be here another year.  I asked how business was and he seemed to think it was good.  They use APS type guns for their work – not sure exactly what those are, but they are 9 mm and have magazine of 20 rounds.  I am sure Mike knows.  Well, the party went on for a while with live guitar playing, singing, dancing.  It was like a disco.  Hmmm – tiring.  I am either stiff from the serious badminton or from dancing.

Well, whatever made me sort of stiff, certainly made me tired for today.  This is why I am putting these two days together in one note.  Today was a day of classes, 2 on Soyuz, 2 on ISS.  We reviewed rendezvous, dangerous stuff on ISS, Immediate descent after launch, and ISS handover.  Not too much, but enough to warrant a nap before going to the gym.  I had a nice nap, went to the gym and then we all went to the banya.  Tonight is an early night and a good day to catch up on sleep.

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