Anousheh Ansari Space Blog

Hello World

I’m finally here… the trip was long but definitely worth it… well let me start from the beginning…

The day started early for us in Baikonur. We got up at 1:00 am Baikonur time and had a short breakfast, followed by an alcohol rub down 😉 Then we were given a set of white long johns to wear under our flight uniforms to go to the launch site.

We had a brief prayer and blessing session and as we were leaving our rooms, we signed our bedroom doors. This is a tradition that they say started with Yuri Gagarin. They also say that the cleaning lady who came to clean the room the next day started scrubbing down the signature until she was quickly stopped. So, my signature now rests next to Greg Olsen, the 3rd Private space explorer and Marcos Pontes, the first Brazilian Astronaut.

I called my grandmother before I left since she could not be in Baikonur. She wished me good luck and safe return.

We then proceeded to the bus to go to the Launch site. From the Cosmonaut Hotel door to the bus is a short walkway. On both sides of the walkway there were family and friends and journalists snapping pictures and taking video footage. In the blinding lights of the cameras, I was able to identify all my family members who came for the launch. They were up in the early hours of the morning to see me off on my great adventure. My Mom was crying and everyone else was trying hard not to show their tears.

We got on the bus and headed to the launch site. During this whole time I was surprisingly calm. I thought that the morning of the launch, I would be a nervous wreck, but to my great surprise I had no fear or anxiety.

We drove to the building where we would prepare for our launch and we went in the room to get suited. One by one, we entered the room, first Misha Tyurin, then Michael L.A., and then me.

After we were all suited up, we went into a room with a glass wall on one side for the final approval from the officials and a suit leak check. On the other side of the glass wall, my mom, sister Atousa, and my husband Hamid were already in the room and seated in the front row. So were Misha’s family and Mike’s. The room was full of reporters. We sat there for a while waving and trying to talk using sign language with our family members as they would come into the room in small groups and leave to make room for the next group of people. We must have looked really funny on camera since we were making strange faces and gestures…

We did our leak check and were officially good to go. We were then escorted back to the bus as we waved to the crowd and reporters. The next tradition was the short stop of the bus for the boys to take a leak;-) This also apparently started with Gagarin and still goes on… Fortunately, I was excused from this exercise and was able to just mentally participate.

We stopped at the foot of the rocket and got out and walked up the ladder that leads to a tiny elevator barely big enough for the 3 of us. We got in and were lifted to the top section to enter the capsule. We went through a tent and then into the habitation module.

I was the first to enter. I was still very calm, excited… but calm. I don’t think my heart rate went over 100 (I’m usually in the 80’s). I had a permanent smile tattooed on my face. I was seated and strapped in.

L.A. came down next and got situated in his tiny space and last was Misha Tyurin. we were still about 2 hours away from launch and there was a series of procedures the two of them had to go through. I was responsible for three simple actions — to turn the condensation valve and switch it between habitation module and descent module, to open and close the oxygen supply valve as needed (pretty important task! ;-)), and to hand the other crew members the flight data files that were situated next to me. Fortunately, not too complicated and I was able to perform my duties as needed.

I followed their actions step by step through the flight data files and made some personal notes on the margins of my book, when I had a chance. Finally the moment arrived and the countdown started. LA, Misha and I put our hands together and said “Ready… here we go.” I thanked God for helping me realize my dream and for everything it has given me. I asked it to fill the heart of all its beings with its love and to bring peace to this beautiful creation we call Earth.

5… 4… 3… I’m really going…2…I love you Hamid…1… and a smooth lift off.

Watching Soyuz TMA 8 launch, I never thought it would be this smooth inside the capsule… It was like an airplane takeoff — then the G’s started but very mild. I think we hit about 2 or 2.5 Gs max… then the separation and the Nose Fairing ejected. Still very smooth. A ray of light filled the capsule and warmed my heart. I think I was laughing out loud. The joy in my heart was indescribable…

The separation of final stage was the most noticeable to me and then Weightlessness…

This wonderful feeling of freedom that puts a smile on everyone’s face. I slowly lifted off my seat and continued giggling. I just couldn’t believe it… to be honest with you, the whole thing is still like a dream to me… I was strapped in so tight that I couldn’t look outside. Finally when we were safe in the orbit, we were able to open our visors and to loosen our belts…

L.A. took his glove off and it started floating in the cabin. I could not stop giggling the whole time… I was finally able to take a look outside and saw the Earth for the first time… Tears started rolling down my face. I could not catch my breath… Even thinking about it now still brings tears to my eyes. Here it was this beautiful planet turning graciously about itself, under the warm rays of the Sun… so peaceful…so full of life… no signs of war, no signs of borders, no signs of trouble, just pure beauty…

How I wished everyone could experience this feeling in their heart, specially those who are at the head of the governments in the world. may be this experience would give them a new perspective and help bring peace to the world.

I think that is enough for now… I shall let you know about the ride up here in the next entry… I’m hungry for some space food now and will catch up with you in the next orbit… right now we are flying over the Pacific Ocean approaching Mexico…