Happy New Year From the Home Stretch

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Happy New Year Everyone!  The start of the New Year brings me into the home stretch of my 2 ½ year road to the launch pad. January will be my last full month in Houston before leaving for 1 week in Germany, 5 weeks in Russia, 2 weeks in Kazakhstan, and finally 2 days locked in a Soyuz spacecraft prior to arriving at the International Space Station and beginning a 6-month mission.

Expedition 27 Crew
Expedition 27 Crew: Ron Garan, Paolo Nespoli, Sasha Samokutyaev, Cady Coleman, Andrey Borisenko, Dmitry Kondratyev Image courtesy of NASA

My Soyuz crewmates, Sasha Samokutyayev and Andrey Borisenko will arrive in Houston next week. This last month in Houston will consist of space station systems training, a few days spent underwater in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab  practicing for space walks, refresher training on some of the experiments we will be conducting, and emergency procedure training (practicing our actions in the case of a fire, air leak etc.). Hopefully we will also have a few joint training sessions with the STS-134 and STS-135 crews with whom we should have the opportunity to spend some time onboard the Station.

In addition to all the training required to prepare for a flight, there’s a great deal of administrative things that must be done prior to leaving the planet for 6-months. Taxes, for instance…although I’m sure I qualify for being “out of the country”.

Sasha, Andrey and I are presently scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft at 7:42pm CT on March 29th (00:42 GMT on March 30th, 4:42am Moscow time on March 30th, and 6:42am Baikonur time on March 30th which is 52 minutes before sunrise in Baikonur). This is less than 2 weeks prior to the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight. We will launch from the same launch pad where Yuri Gagarin began his historic flight that marked the beginning of the space age. I am really looking forward to being a part of such an historic anniversary, and I can’t think of a better place to observe the occasion than the International Space Station, where I will be living and working with crewmates from 4 different nations.

Expedition 28 Crew
Expedition 28 Crew: Satoshi Furukawa, Mike Fossum, Ron Garan, Alexander Samokutyaev, Sergey Volkov, Andrey Borisenko Image courtesy of NASA

When Sasha, Andrey and I arrive onboard the Space Station, we will be greeted by the other members of the Expedition 27 crew: ISS commanderDmitri Kondratyev, US astronaut Cady Coleman, and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli. We will spend about 2 months sharing the incredible experience of living and working in space with those guys before they climb into the Soyuz spacecraft that they launched in and return to Earth. A few weeks later, a new Soyuz spacecraft will arrive with Russian Cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, US astronaut Mike Fossum, and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa. We will then spend 4 months with them, before returning to Earth in our Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft in late September.

I will do my best in this time leading up to heading to Baikonur, the pre-launch time in Baikonur and during the orbital mission to share the experience as much as I can through this blog, Twitter and by sending down as many pictures and videos as I can. Additionally, we have many interactive events planned that will hopefully allow people to not only follow the mission but be a part of it.

Please stay tuned to Fragile Oasis as we put in place all the tools we need to share the mission with everyone.