Greetings, once again, now from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in south central Kazakhstan!
We are well into our 4th day here and all is going well. The first “fit-check” of the Soyuz spacecraft went very well on Friday (L-12 days). The vehicle is in great shape and we got our opportunity to practice the ingress and strap-in as it will go on launch morning.
This is my 4th time through this process—twice on backup crews and 2nd time as a prime crew—and I continue to be impressed with the rich history and tradition in this place. It continues to be largely unknown to many around the world and, particularly, in America. Our participation in the Russian program as crewmembers goes back to Norm Thagard, who launched on Soyuz TM-21 in 1995 spending over 115 days on the Russian space station Mir. It was he, along with others who supported and participated in the Shuttle-Mir Program, who blazed the trail of Russian operations for those of us privileged to follow. They were largely out-of-sight and out-of-mind. I encourage you to read through the history of the Shuttle-Mir Program.
The coming week will be relatively relaxed with procedure reviews for the different flight phases, docking training on a laptop based simulator, review of Soyuz operations, and continuing preparation of the flight checklists and references. The pace will pick up significantly on L-5 days. In the mean time, there is some opportunity to get the many personal details organized.