Baikonur – Day 9

Since we have been spoiled, getting up at 0730 was sort of difficult today…but it was worth it! What a day! Something different every day it seems. And we had to wear our flight suits rather than PT gear or jeans.

Got up early – I didn’t even hear the alarm go off. I slept well and didn’t even notice the springs last night. Kiril, the Russian flight surgeon had to wake me up by knocking on the door this morning. Not sure if it was from lifting (I did a lot of pull-ups yesterday at the end of lifting – plus the endurance billiards game I told you about) or just getting tired in general. Anyway, it was great sleep and I felt ready to go after I was woke up. Got ready quick and had some pictures this morning.

I forgot to mention, there is a little army of ladies who wait outside our little wing for us to leave for breakfast everyday. They race in here, clean your room, take your clothes away for washing and are out of here by the time we get back from breakfast. I see them periodically around the building, but I think our rooms have priority between 1000-1030. They are wear blue-ish uniforms of a dress or skirt. Today, they were all dressed up in their civilian clothes all waiting for us for a picture all together!!! They all had big smiles on their faces. I saw the lady who usually cleans my room and she had a huge smile on her when I complimented how nice she looked. Very cool.

Next we went down to breakfast and the entire cooking crew was there waiting for us for a picture as well. So nice – and really yummy food. I can’t say enough about them – very nice, hard working people.

Then it was off to the Premerka. Aki and I got on the correct bus today – the beige one, so we have learned. Both buses were off with the police escort. With the sirens sounding every now and then, it really seems like a prisoner movement…Aki mentioned that and I was chuckling – watch out local people the prisoners are on the move!!! Another snowy, even foggy looking countryside out there. Pretty in it’s own way. Bakes was commenting on how the antenna set up looks just like what we have at White Sands. Physics, or someone thought the other one had a good idea, not quite sure.

We arrived at the bldg 254 (I think) were the crew suits up and where the Soyuz is. We went in front of the commission to say hello, and essentially got right into the check. We, the backup crew was first for this one. We went up and into the vehicle, told to check out a couple of things and say if we liked them for our vehicle next spring. There are rubberized straps on the left side for my books – that was added since last time in the vehicle. The BO was packed. Really only half of the divan is usable now. I put in a picture of the hatch, with the shroud on. The square hatch is really how they will get into the vehicle and then they will go “down” into the CA (the second picture to see how crowded it is in there – and we don’t have space suits on). So, we checked out our places – Aki and I took some pictures, but again, didn’t want to mess anything up in there. Yuri was in and out, saw what he wanted to and got out pretty quickly. Aki next and then me. When I started to get up from my seat, I hit the Zashlonki with my shoulder and instantly it went to closed position – sensitive. We got out and had a little tea as was the prime crews turn.

Then, we had the traditional ceremony. The backup crew is responsible for testing the rocket fuel – that is our job you know. Making sure all is good for the prime crew’s rocket. Remember this program is really steeped in tradition. We entered a room with some of the designers, the heads of this department and got ready for the tasting. A clear 1liter plastic bottle with a Rocket Fuel label on the side was waiting for us as well as pickles, croutons, orange slice. I think the original was just with croutons. The fuel is 96% or so, so it was recommended to add some water. I did that! Yuri recommended not breathing in after tasting it, good advice. We had our toasts and took lots of pictures. Very nice group.

Next the prime crew was out of the vehicle and we were ready to report on the what we saw. Not much to say, essentially, all was good. So, the chief and Energia management came in to give a little toast as well. Again, all traditions.

All of us climbed on our buses and then went to the museum on the cosmodrome. I have been there before. It is interesting, and that is where the capsule for two dogs is in fact. There is a stuffed bunny and some rat looking creatures in the capsule, and old pictures of the dogs. Pretty funny. Of course there is a lot of great space memorabilia there – folks will see it when they come. It is located next to the preserved homes of Korolov and Gagarin when they were there in the 60s. Lots of history!

Luckily that was it for the afternoon. It was a tiring day, even though we really didn’t do much. Got back for lunch and a nap.

Got a quick workout in and went to the banya – now as Don says “time to power down the rom.” Such a geek!

That is enough for now!!!!

P.S. I forgot on other major stop we made before we went to the museum – we went to see the rocket assembly building. That was really cool. I will probably kill your email’s if I send some pictures we took with the good camera, so I will search around to see if anyone has a low res picture. It was really amazing seeing probably 3 or 4 rockets worth of boostere (carrots – side boosters) Then on to “their” rocket. All so shiny and new. Lots and lots of engines. The assembly happens nearby the museum and the homes. It leaves the building around 0700 in the morning on rollout day, but has a pretty long train ride to get to the launch pad. So, the buses will meet it at the tracks around 0830. Again, the capsule isn’t on the rocket yet – not action before it’s time – and it is only a couple days until launch amazing!

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