The two-and-a-half years of training for the Expedition 27/28 missions culminated last week with our participation in pre-launch traditions. Last Friday, we went before the State Commission. The State Commission was headed by Sergey Krikalev. Besides being the Chief of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Sergey has spent more time in space than anyone in history (803 days 9 hours and 39 minutes). At the Commission, all our training for the mission was reviewed, each of us said a few words, and then we were certified “Ready for Flight.” Following the State Commission, we conducted a press conference with Russian and European media that was also covered by NASA TV.
On Friday, after the press conference, we visited the Cosmonaut Museum here in Star City. Before touring through the great historical displays, each crew sat at Yuri Gagarin’s desk and signed the Cosmonaut Book. It was fun looking through the book and seeing the names and well wishes of the crews that went before us.
From Star City we headed down to Red Square where we each took turns laying flowers at the tombs of Yuri Gagarin and Sergey Korolev. What a great honor to be able to show our respect to the first human in space, and to the father of the Russian space program. We also placed flowers on the tomb of Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, who was the first person to fly in space twice, and also was unfortunately the first person to die during a space mission when he perished on Soyuz 1. In addition to paying respect to those great champions of human spaceflight that have gone before us, we also had some time for “photo-ops” in front of the Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon inside the Kremlin, and of course in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral.
After our visit to Red Square we all headed to the headquarters of the Russian Space Agency to meet with the Director of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Anatoly Perminov. Mr. Perminov congratulated us on the completion of our Star City based training and talked about the challenges we would face on our mission. He also talked about the desire of the international community to explore beyond low-Earth orbit including the Moon and Mars.
We were scheduled to depart Star City for Baikonur this Thursday, but technical problems with our spacecraft have delayed our launch. We do not expect a very long delay and we except to find out the new launch date in a day or two. Whenever we end up arriving in Baikonur, I’m really looking forward to being in that place, so close to the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight, and where so much space history was made.