It’s a gorgeous day in Baikonur. The Soyuz TMA-9 spaceship and the Soyuz booster look beautiful, silhouetted against a clear blue sky.
Mike Lopez-Alegria (Mike LA), Mikhail Tyurin (Soyuz Commander of Expedition 14), and Anousheh are now suited and onboard. Anousheh is seated in the right seat of the 3-person capsule
This pad is the same used 45 years ago to launch Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961. One hundred years from now, this may be a historic shrine celebrating the earliest days of humanity’s first evolutionary steps toward the stars.
This mission’s call-sign is “Vostok” which means “east.” It is also the name of the vehicle that carried Gagarin into orbit.
The onboard TV cameras have just gone live with in-cabin video. I can see Soyuz Commander Tyurin in the center seat, and NASA Astronaut Mike LA in the left seat.
Now the camera angle has just changed and I can see Anousheh in the right seat. I think she has a permanent smile on her face! She’s running through the check list. Her glass bubble helmet is half-open. In the foreground of the image you can see a little stuffed bear dangling from the control panel… almost like you would put on the rear-view mirror of your car. This is just one of the many Russian traditions. When the bear floats, you know you are in Zero-G.
I remember in 1983 when I traveled down to Florida to watch the flight of Sally Ride, the first US woman to fly into space. One of the billboards said, “Ride Sally Ride, and all you guys can go along too.” For too long spaceflight has been a male-dominated occupation. One of Anousheh’s goals, through this flight, is to help excite young girls worldwide to follow in her footsteps and reach for the stars.
I just had two friends call me to make sure I’m watching the flight. Jack Bader, X PRIZE Trustee in St. Louis, and good friend Dr. Kyle Sprecher in Houston. I hope many more are also glued to the TV or internet.
The voice of mission control has just announced that we’re at L-10 minutes and all systems are go.
I just received a call from Eric Anderson, CEO of Space Adventures. He and his entire staff are up late in the office, watching the launch on a large-screen TV. Eric tells me not to get too excited until after L+8.5 minutes, when the staging has completed and vehicle is in orbit.
At L-30 seconds… I can feel my breathing change… the control arms have just pulled away from the vehicle… the cosmonauts are shaking hands.
L-0… Ignition, launch… the vehicle looks perfect climbing into the sky… the plume is now looking like a star rising into the sky.
L+5 minutes. I can see Anousheh from the onboard cameras. Amazingly the TV signal is clear and strong. Anousheh still has her permanent grin. She is following along on the check list. Mission control is saying that all is operating nominal, g-forces are normal, vibration is minimal. Stage 2 has just completed its burn and Stage 3 is now operating nominal. At 7 minutes into the flight the speed is now 13,000 miles per hour, on the way to orbital velocity of 17,500 miles per hour.
The magic moment has arrived — 8.5 minutes into the flight. The third stage has completed its task — Soyz TMA-9, Expedition-14 is now safe in orbit.
Congratulations Anousheh, your dream has come true. You are in orbit! You have made it to space. You are one of only 500 humans who have ever traveled to space.
I can’t wait to go too. Keep my seat warm :-)