Watching Soyuz Roll By


Our ride to Baikonour Cosmodrome started bright and early (6am).  We parked our van near the Soyuz assembly building, and were waved through a gate.  My jaw dropped when I saw that we were being told to stand near a barrier about 20 feet from a rail track and an electric locomotive;  this was where the Soyuz launch vehicle and spacecraft would pass on their short trek to Pad 31.  We were part of a crowd of perhaps 100 people, including families of the astronaut and 2 cosmonauts crewing this mission, several astronauts who have all spent rotations on the International Space Station, and NASA and Russian Space Agency officials.  Within a few minutes, floodlights came on, the massive door rolled aside, and there it was!  I've been following the many, many launches of this workhorse of the Russian space program since it first flew in the 1960's - and I could almost touch it! (Might have thought about that, if it weren't for the grouchy looking guards with the submachine guns!).  After it rolled around a bend, we made our way to the launch pad, and watched the meticulous process of positioning the Soyuz over the flame trench, raising it until vertical, and positioning all of the supports and work platforms around the rocket and spacecraft.  By 10am - it was finished, and it was time to go!  I'm sending lots of pictures today, so hope you'll get a taste of how amazing today was for all of us lucky enough to be here.

Tomorrow - we get to participate in the crew's final pre-launch press briefing.  Stay tuned!  

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