The crew of two Russians and an American has successfully blasted off into space. Despite the diplomatic skirmish on the ground, the greatest problems faced by the international Soyuz team are dozens of experiments to be done – and missing loved ones.
Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft set off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 21:17 GMT on Tuesday.
The spacecraft is using the short route to the International Space Station, reducing the two day journey to a six hour trip. Soyuz is set to automatically dock at the ISS at 03:07 GMT on Wednesday.
Hours before Expedition 39 to the International Space Station starts its express journey into orbit from Kazakhstan, the crew of three – Russia’s Aleksandr Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, and NASA’s Steven Swanson – shared their pre-flight thoughts and concerns. The press briefing could be rightfully named as one of the few international events with absolutely no political pressure involved.
Indeed, the astronauts never get tired of saying that in a situation when one’s life depends on the work of others, all politics is set aside. But what challenges do even the most tested professionals face 220 miles above their home and what do they bring on their journey to cope with homesickness?
“I will mainly take photographs and letters with me. All my relatives have been writing messages to me so I could have a new one every day. I will open an envelope at the end of each day and read what’s in it,” flight engineer Artemyev has shared.
For commander Skvortsov, the mission will mark the second time he celebrates a birthday in space – but for him, that makes it no less special.
“I had my 44th birthday party in orbit, and this time I will celebrate my 48th birthday up there too. It has become a kind of tradition by now. When I turned 44 the first thing I saw in the morning was a Birthday card from the American crew members. It is a gift I treasure very much and I keep it,” Skvortsov said.
He then went on to joke that even that modest celebration did not interrupt the scientific observations of the team, saying that balloons inflated with nitrogen “actually served as a good indicator of the cabin pressure.”