Greetings From Sunny Baikonur, Kazakhstan!
Michael Lopez-Alegria's Mission Log
There is much to report. As you may have heard, Space Flight Participant Dice-K Enomoto encountered a medical issue at nearly the last minute and was removed from the flight. He was replaced by Anousheh Ansari. Anousheh will launch with us aboard Soyuz TMA-9 and return to Earth 10 days later with the Expedition 13 crew. I am hopeful that Dice-K’s medical issue will be resolved and that he will be able to realize his dream of flying in space on an upcoming mission. In the meantime I am very glad to welcome Anousheh to our team.
Image to right: Astronaut Michael E. Lopez-Alegria trains for his upcoming flight with spaceflight participant Anousheh Ansari. Photo Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.
The other important news is that our launch date and time are now fixed – September 18th at 10:08:32 local time in Baikonur; 06:08:32 in most of Europe; and 00:08:32 (just after midnight) Eastern Daylight Time.
During the last week in August our crew underwent a series of qualification examinations in the Soyuz simulators, including manual rendezvous and docking to the ISS, manual entry into the atmosphere, and a day-long simulation that comprised launch, post-insertion activities, rendezvous and docking, undocking, entry and landing. Of course several simulated system malfunctions were introduced to test our readiness. We also had examinations in the ISS simulator to assess remotely controlled docking of an unmanned Progress cargo vehicle (basically the same size and shape as a Soyuz vehicle), and another day-long simulation that included various activities that we will be carrying out once on orbit.
Image to left: Astronaut Michael E. Lopez-Alegria in a training session in an International Space Station Zvezda Service Module mockup/trainer in Star City, Russia. Photo Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.
A few days after the examinations a State Commission pronounced us fit to fly. We took part in the longstanding traditions of visiting the restored office of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, in Star City, and of laying flowers at the Red Square tombs of Gagarin and Sergei Korolev, the father of Soviet manned rocketry. On the 2nd of September we made the three hour flight from Moscow to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where we will undergo the final stage of our training.
Less than two weeks to go!