Countdown Preparations (L-9 days)

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.

Preparations for the Journey

Greetings from Star City, Russia—the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center—just outside Moscow!

Our Soyuz crew—Maxim Suraev, Guy Laliberte, and I—are just finishing up our training for a flight to the International Space Station (ISS) and heading to the remote location of Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for final launch preparations on the Soyuz TMA-16.

I am NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams and this will be my 3rd flight to space, 3rd trip to the ISS, and 2nd long duration expedition to the orbital outpost.  Max and I will remain on board ISS for nearly six months executing the missions of Expeditions 21 & 22.  Guy will remain on board for about 9 days and return to earth with the crew we are replacing.

It has dawned on me that very few have had a glimpse into the very interesting and historic world of human spaceflight, especially behind the scenes in the preparation and execution.  That is the case for ISS, in general, but especially true in Russia and Kazakhstan with an American on a Russian Soyuz.  Because of that, I’m going to attempt to provide some background, describe the experience along the way, introduce you to the rest of the team, and let you vicariously come along on the journey.


Welcome aboard!