The Pieces Come Together

Our ride awaits.

Four days ago our rocket was in pieces, scattered across the floor ofthe assembly building.  Like anxious parents checking on their sleepingchildren, we took one last peek inside our Soyuz spacecraft. Everything was tucked in where it should be.

Three days ago the pieces started to come together, like giant blocks from a Lego set.

Two days ago all the pieces were assembled into the final form of our rocket.

One day ago our rocket rolled out on a train car from the assemblybuilding to the launch pad.  This is the same pad that Yuri Gagarinlaunched from in 1961.  This launch pad made history, and still does. Within half an hour, our rocket went from laying down to standing up.

Today, the day before launch, last-minute touches are being made toour rocket in preparation for launch, and we crew members are doing thesame.  There are technical briefs, a conference with the uppermanagement (back home we say “Big Cheese,” here they say “Big Pinecone”;in any language it’s the same), a press interview, and one last chanceto be with our families. We share a movie.  By tradition, we watch theclassic Russian film “White Sun Of the Desert.”We share a meal. No one speaks of this as a last supper, but it is. Onelast hug, a good laugh, a good cry, and my family departs.

Tomorrow we walk to our rocket and climb the stairway that leads intospace. The sky is not the limit, at least not anymore. What anadventure—and I have not even left the planet yet.

Our Soyuz arrived at the launch pad on Monday.