By Bonnie Pandya
We arrived in Moscow by bus. The astronauts all went to the Russian Space Agency for a meeting with Vladimir Popovkin, the head of the space agency. This is another Russian tradition where they go to thank him for letting them train in Russia after they completed all their training and tests. Each astronaut and cosmonaut has something to say to him either in Russian or English. One of the astronauts, speaking Russian made a dreadful mistake. Instead of thanking him for his training he thanked him for his girlfriend. Suni decided she was going to speak in English so as not to make a blunder. As it was he is an old Russian and asked her how she would be cleaning and cooking in the ISS. Needless to say she along with everyone else was dismayed by his questions and this was one of the subjects they talked about later in Shep’s Bar. She was also given a picture of Putin.
The rest of us stayed on the bus because we could not go into Popovkin’s office. It was getting hot so we were asked if we wanted to go into the NASA office nearby and wait until the interview and press conference were over. We all walked over to the NASA office and were met by Joel who is the head of everything in Russia, launch & landing in Kazakhstan. He is very nice and has a Russian wife named Inga. They were finishing up their tour of duty there in Russia and going back to the U.S. after spending several years in Russia. We had tea, cookies and candy while we waited.
Then we were driven to Red Square where the astronauts were given red roses to put on Yuri Gagarin and other famous cosmonaut’s graves.
Each one did it separately and said a little prayer. The press was there taking pictures of everyone as we walked around the Kremlin.
Then we all walked to the cannon and various statues with the press following along and taking pictures and doing interviews. Next we went into the park and more pictures and interviews were done by Gagarin’s tree. The park was beautiful with many flower garden displays, benches, and walkways. Tourists were standing by to get into the Kremlin to view all of the above but it was blocked off until the astronauts and group departed.
The drive into Moscow took us about three hrs. and after all the various ceremonies, press conferences, photographs, we left Moscow around 6 p.m, and did not get back to Star City until around 9 o’clock. Everyone was very hungry since we did not eat anything all day. When we got back to the cottages we all went into cottage three and had dinner. Everyone that was there including the astronauts in training, had made us dinner so it was waiting for us. I was very impressed with how nice everyone gets along and how helpful and considerate every one is to each other.
This was a very busy day. This is a tradition that has been carried out in Russia since the start of the Russian Space Agency. I felt very privileged to be a part of this tradition along with my daughter Suni. Everyone was exhausted so we all dispersed and went to our own cottages. The astronauts had studying to do, Suni had packing to do and I used her computer to write our adventures of the day.