19 Sep / Final Exams
The week began with a briefing about the packing and storage of items we will be taking with us in the Soyuz. While I am now done with classes, there are still lots of preparations to complete before I go! We also visited my crewmate Yuri’s office for the first time, where I discovered (late I know) that Yuri is head of the Cosmonaut Office here at GCTC!
Perhaps the biggest personal news of the week came when I got the chance to be on “The Colbert Report!” I have been wearing the red “Wrist Strong Bracelet” in the hopes of using it as leverage to get on the show, but when NASA astronaut Garrett Riesman made a live broadcast from space to the show wearing his, my hopes were dashed. But with the Tabula Rasa Operation Immortality promotion, where I am taking the digitized DNA “fingerprint” of various people with me to orbit, I had another shot at it. When Stephen heard about the idea, he was all over it! So, we did a phone interview which aired on the show on Thursday.
Thursday and Friday were what one might term Very … Long … Days! We had our final exams. Thursday’s was in the ISS mockup, and Friday we wore our Sokol spacesuits in the Soyuz. Thursday’s session was good fun, and went very smoothly. My Beef and Pie film crew even got to hang out and shoot video. Friday’s session, in contrast, was a little more testing. While I’d completed all these training activities separately, this was the first time we conducted one long day of Launch, Rendezvous, and Return, all back to back, all in spacesuits … talk about CRAMPS! That is a mighty long time to sit in one position without being able to move any part of your body except for your arms. Consequently, I am now very carefully thinking about comfort in this phase of flight. Diapers come highly recommended. (I was given one to test!) I also suspect I will need to load up on vitamins and fluids for fighting cramps!
After each of the two full-day tests, the 40- to 50-person panel that administered and observed the tests went through an extensive debrief with us. The great news was that our crew passed with flying colors, making close to perfect scores across the board.
After the final, final exam, we were swooshed to a conference room overlooking a mini-mission control that I’d never seen before, where there was much toasting and eating. Later we were dragged off by some high-ranking politicians and other bigwigs to another eatery off in the woods somewhere, where more eating and toasting ensued. We had doctors and a priest with us to keep us out of too much trouble, though I must say I crashed out very early compared with some in our party after our grueling day of testing.
Saturday I took the Beef and Pie team on a tour of Moscow, filming at Gorky Park, where they have an original Buran, and celebrating at nice restaurants and clubs into the evening. Sunday I showed them my recent public-transportation discovery and the Hyper-Globus. (Isn’t it odd that basically a Walmart is big news?)