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October 27, 2006
October 23, 2006
Like all good things, this blog is also coming to an end. It was wonderful to be able to share this part of my life with all of you. I appreciate all your supportive comments.
Those who did not see the point in my trip are also entitled to their opinions and I respect that, the same way I hope they respect mine.
I’m still reading your comments and will try to answer as many questions as possible. Some of you have asked me to publish a book and I’m investigating this option. If and when I do so, I will announce it on my website as well as X Prize website.
I wish the best for all of you and hope one day your dreams will come true…
It has been a wonderful ride J
October 20, 2006
Today the ending of one of the best chapters of my life was being written. I flew to Moscow on the 16th of October and arrived on the 17th. It was a difficult trip for me because I had to leave my grandmother who wasn’t feeling well to go on this trip. I was nervous the entire flight and Hamid who was accompanying me kept talking to me and trying to calm me down. The reason for my trip was to attend the official welcome back ceremony. Because of my request, the Russian Space Agency had broken tradition to accommodate my schedule and was holding this event two days earlier, so I could not miss it.
I had participated as an observer in the ceremony held for Expedition 12 crew members and Marcos Pontes, the Brazilian astronaut. I remember I was very excited because the morning of the ceremony, I had been able to catch Marcos Pontes, Bill McArthur, and Valery Tokorev outside of the dormitory and take a picture with them.
I knew every step of the ceremony. First the astronauts and cosmonauts being honored would be taken to the huge Gagarin monument in the middle of Star City, where a military band plays a march as they place flowers at the foot of the statue.
Then they would walk down the big corridor that leads to the House of Cosmonauts, which is the big community center in Star City that houses the Gagarin museum. People, photographers and journalists gather at the statue and follow them to the main attraction — the welcome back speech at the Auditorium.
At the ceremony, the crew is presented with awards and gifts from representatives and the head of the Space Agency, Air Force, Search and Rescue Team, the Prime contractor and General Design company, etc… Each person comes up to the stage and says a few words about the success of the mission and lessons learned, and then presents their gifts. At the end, each of the three crew members are given an opportunity to speak.
I had written my speech in English and had asked a Russian professor in Dallas to translate it for me. I wanted to deliver my speech in Russian because I knew how much the people in Star City would appreciate it. I knew my pronunciation would be less than desirable and it would make it hard for people to understand me but I knew they just wanted to see me make an effort.
I was hoping that I would get a few days to practice the speech, but with everything that was happening around me, I only got the speech done the day before my flight and practiced it a few times on the plane ride to Moscow. During my practice runs on the plane, I struggled with pronouncing many of the words… I was starting to think I should just stick with English and print the Russian version and distribute it to the audience…
The plane ride was long and I could not sleep at all. As we were approaching Moscow, my anxiety was increasing by the minute. We finally landed and after a long wait through customs, we were on our way to Star City. I had arranged a party that evening for all my instructors, trainers, and everyone who had helped me in one way or another during my training time there. I also had a couple of press interviews right before the party, and my schedule was packed for the next two days. We drove through the usual traffic and finally arrived in Star City around 3:00 pm.
It felt strange to be back there. Driving down the road where I used to walk everyday to class reminded me of the happy days I had there. It was hard for me to believe that I had already gone to space and now I was back in Star City as a Cosmonaut. It all seemed like yesterday but at the same time it felt like a distant memory.
For a moment I wished that it was February 2006 and that I was just starting my life in Star City. I had enjoyed every single moment of my journey and I remembered my first day there. I flew there with my husband Hamid, my brother in law Amir and Peter Diamandis, whom you know as the chairman of X Prize Foundation. It was early January, and before I had decided to train there. We were all excited but Peter and I were extra excited. We looked like kids in a candy store and were just trying to take it all in. I remembered Peter telling me, “Anousheh, if you decide to train, enjoy every second of it, don’t just think about the flight, enjoy the entire experience…”
And I had done just that. I appreciated the beautiful but cold winter there… I listened to music while watching the tall snow-covered evergreens lining the street of star City… I enjoyed learning about the International Space Station (ISS) and the Soyuz capsule… I enjoyed making new friends and learning a new language… I enjoyed breathing the same air as the astronauts and cosmonauts were breathing and sitting next to them in the cafeteria and listening to their stories…
I enjoyed living a simple life. Life seemed to be less complicated and all the small things that you usually worry about at home were not important anymore. At home I would drive to three different places to make sure I would get the right products that I liked for breakfast or for my hair. Here in Star City, I could not buy any of them and I learned that I can manage without a lot of things… even hot water. Having hot water was hit or miss, so every morning that I would wake up and have clean hot water in the shower, it was a good day for me.
I started paying attention and enjoying my surroundings more… In Dallas, I would drive a car everywhere but here I had a choice between walking or riding a bike. I walked most of the time and enjoyed watching the change of seasons. I watched as the snow started to slowly melt and the trees started to grow new leaves. I watched as the ice on the lake in front of my dormitory started to melt and people came for fishing. I watched as the tulips started growing in the gardens and butterflies started flying… I watched as life was starting again and I noticed how much I enjoyed being so close to nature.
In Dallas spring would come and ago and I would hardly notice any of its beauty. In cities, we are surrounded by glass, plastic, and steel and we start living an artificial life without any appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us. We become isolated and detached from our environment… Being so close to nature and being able to see it, smell it and touch it gave me a great sense of joy.
The spring was followed by a hot but short summer. I learned to balance the opening of windows to get some cool air, with the attack of the mosquitoes. Most of the buildings in Star City are very old and do not have air conditioning. In Dallas, I never even thought about AC. It is always there. But here, if I walked into a classroom that happened to have a small AC hanging by the window, I would consider that day a lucky day J
Even more interesting to me was the fact that none of these things bothered me. If I was back in Dallas and had to be in a non air-conditioned room, I would probably complain for days but here it seemed okay… I was there for a much more important mission and everything else seemed unimportant to me. Life was simple!
As the summer was coming to an end, I was ready to go home and see my family. I knew that the training was coming to an end and I was making a list and planning for things that I wanted to accomplish on my flight in 2008. Since I had my trip to look forward to, I was not sad and I just wanted to go home and start planning my trip. And then… all of a sudden… my life changed… and before I knew it, I was flying to ISS.
Now that I was back in Star City, I felt lost… I didn’t know where I belonged… Life was going on as usual… the instructors were preparing and presenting their material to the new trainees, and astronauts and cosmonauts were going from one classroom to the next… I felt disconnected from it all and I missed it really badly… It was like graduating from college and coming back for a visit. Everything looked familiar but at the same time different… You see students walking by and life on campus going on as usual but you are no longer part of it and you wish hard that you were. It is almost a painful feeling.
All these memories flashed back in my head as I was approaching the dormitory. We were staying there for the nighAs we walked in with our suitcases, Jeff Williams walked in and told me he was going up to NASA office for a video link with the Expedition 14 crew onboard ISS and invited me to join them… I was so happy… I dropped my suitcase there and ran to the 2nd floor. Pavel was already there and the video link was up. Mike L.A. and Thomas Reiter were already there and Misha Tyurin joined them later.
It felt sooooo good talking to them. I missed being there so much and just seeing them, floating in front of the camera and talking about life onboard the station, made me feel part of the crew again… Mike asked me about my interview with Oprah. He had heard about it but had not seen it. Then he asked me if my trip seemed real or just like a dream. I told him it felt like a dream and he seemed to understand the feeling. I guess even for professional astronauts, their time in space is dreamlike and surreal… I told them that I really missed them and Mike said, jokingly, “Well, come back with Peggy!” I said “I wish I could! but Hamid told me I have to work hard to make money for my next trip” — J Before we knew it, the time was up and the video link ended. It felt so good to talk to them and it energized me… I went downstairs to my room with a big smile to prepare for my interview.
After the interview, I went to the cafeteria where everyone was gathering for the party I had arranged. I was all smiles again… Seeing everyone made me feel at home. They were all glad to see me again as well. I had prepared them a DVD with pictures from my time in Star City, all the way to launch and landing, and some more souvenirs…
They also brought me gifts and souvenirs to take home. One was a beautiful traditional scarf, from the lady doctors and nurses, that I wore the next day to the ceremony. My Russian instructor gave me a magazine that had my picture on the cover with the title “the New Star.” Everyone was so sweet and appreciative. I told them all that this is not goodbye and that I would be back in March for Expedition 14’s landing and would see them again. I returned to my room around 9 pm and had to stay up for another interview at 11:45 pm. I was exhausted… it had almost been 32 hours without sleep.
The next morning I had another interview and the official flight debrief. This is the meeting when they review all the comments and suggestions that they had gathered post-flight, during the quarantine. Around 1:30 pm we all gathered in the lobby of the dormitory where I was staying and prepared to go to the ceremony. I had very little time to practice my speech but I decided to give it a try and to do my speech in Russian.
Just like the previous crews, we went to the Gagarin monument first. There were so many people there and again I kept remembering myself in the audience trying to sneak a few pictures as Expedition 12 crew was placing flowers at the foot of the Gagarin statue. As we started marching toward the auditorium, people cheered for us and waved. It was a beautiful day, a little chilly but not too bad…
We went through the back door and sat at a table on the stage. The auditorium was 80 percent full, which was more than the last time I was there. Behind us was my favorite picture of Yuri Gagarin, the one with him and the Dove in his hand. I remembered seating in the audience, six month before that, and thinking to myself, one day I would be on that stage and would be talking about my experience and thanking everyone for their support. Today was that day and it all seemed to happen so fast…
Just like the ceremony I attended before, one by one the heads of different agencies came to the stage and congratulated us. What surprised me was all the kind words that they specially said about me. They called me part of the crew and a very courageous individual. They even presented me with a several medals. I was so touched… one of them even said that I had inspired women in Russia and that they now have a woman candidate in the program.
It made me very happy not only to hear that women are more interested in entering the cosmonaut corps, but also to realize that I had changed the views of the people in charge about women being part the program and it felt really good…
By the time all the speakers finished, we each had a mountain of flowers and many boxes of medals, pictures, and other souvenirs in front of us. After Pavel and Jeff delivered their speech, it was my turn. I was the last one to speak… I was nervous and my voice was trembling a little. I was very emotional too and that made it even more difficult for me to read the speech. I delivered the speech as best as I could and I could tell I was reaching the audience, since they would interrupt me with their applause.
When I got to the last paragraph, I choked up and barely finished my speech, everyone applauded and I knew they were touched by what I had to say and by the fact that I tried to say it in Russian. Everyone congratulated me later on the speech. I have the original speech in a separate entry if you are interested to read it… What was also interesting was the fact that a few other astronauts came to me and told me they shared my sentiments. They too felt that Star City was a very special place and were very sad when they were leaving…
As I had said in my speech… today I’m leaving and in my heart I have a special place for three countries… Iran the country where I was born and raised, America the country that gave me the opportunity to educate myself and to succeed, and Russia the country that made my dream come true…
Goodbye Star City, the city of dreamers…
I will be signing off and with this entry closing my Space Flight Chapter of this blog…
I will continue reading your comments and answering your questions in the near future…
With my best wishes for all of you who have been reading and commenting on this blog…
Dream! Dream Big! Dream the impossible! And make it come true…
I look forward to reading your inspiring stories in the future…
… my speech in Star City + photos —> (more…)
October 11, 2006
Anousheh is on Oprah today. As learned in comments, there’s more video.
[edit: Help arrives from World in comments —
For those of you who weren’t able to see Mrs. Ansari on Oprah, here is the video link:
Comment by Tourang — October 12, 2006 @ 2:50 pm]
October 10, 2006
October 9, 2006
I’m back safe and sound in the US and taking care of some personal family medical issues. I have been reading your comments and I wanted to thank you for all your words of support and encouragement. I am not upset about negative comments and I can take criticism. My lack of writing in the past few days has nothing to do with the negative comments but more to do with personal family commitments. As you may have gathered from my writings, my family is everything to me and I need to make sure they are happy. I would not be here without their help and support. Now it’s my turn to take care of a few things :-)
I am happy to see that we can have constructive disagreement and discussion on the site… If everyone thought the same way, this would be a very boring world to live in. I have a few more stories to share with everyone, about my time in Quarantine and some of my pre-flight training activities.
After that, we shall see what happens ;-)
Warm wishes to all…