15 Sep / Final Launch Preparations
My father and his partner Rob Rouleau spent Monday through Thursday this week at Energia, reviewing all of the documentation for our protein crystal growth (PCG) experiment. While there, they made many tiny wording changes, although everyone in the room laughed about how this was probably the last time anyone would actually ever look at them. But if an issue was to arise, these documents would be used to figure out what went wrong and what could be done about it. By week’s end they were both exhausted, but relieved to have it complete!
Now all we need is confirmation that we can keep the experiment cold enough at the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan. As Dad and Rob will be traveling to Baikonur on a commercial flight, they won’t be able to transport a large mass of dry ice. So Energia is powering up a minus 80-degree Celsius freezer that we hope will be online and work while we are in Baikonur to keep the PCG experiment frozen.
I too visited Energia to spend a little extra time working on my hard-drive load for the trip up to space. While there, Sergey Samburov invited us to his office to chat about HAM radio, where we also learned about his radio and antenna work for Energia. I was especially interested to hear that he helped build the small hand-deployed Sputnik satellite that was deployed from Mir on the 40th anniversary of Sputnik.
Back at GCTC, Nik and I had our helicopter rescue training at the Hydro Lab, where we also took the opportunity to swim in and around the ISS mockups in the pool there.
My father and I made a trip into Moscow to do a spot with CNN International, which was fun. He also got to watch me suit up for a simulation, probably the most interesting training he had the chance to observe.
I wrapped up the work week with a trip to the TsUP, or Mission Control, for a briefing on the current status of systems onboard the ISS that we will find when we arrive. Mostly all in good operating order, but it was interesting to hear about which light bulbs were burned out and which sensors had anomalous readings. Basically, every system expert had their team there to brief us on the status of their system, so an interesting glimpse of real-time conditions in orbit.
Over the weekend I tried the local public minibus system to go into a neighboring town and visit the Hyper-Globus, which is similar in feel to the mega Walmarts you see across the U.S. these days. Clearly the concept has taken root in Russia, so it’s probably a great place to invest, I would think! The town of Sholkova was hosting a rock concert while I was visiting; it was nice to see a real community in action, something I’ve missed from all my time in Star City and even Moscow.
I also took a train to Chalkovsky, just two stops from Star City, and found a nice outdoor place to eat some “shashlique,” the local version of BBQ on skewers.