Baikonur Spaceport Tour: Soyuz TMA-20 Launch
Soyuz TMA-20M crew made up of Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexei Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams successfully went to the ISS at night from March 18 to March 19. According to our tradition together with a group of space fans we saw the crew off to space and visited all pre-launch events at Baikonur.
At roll-out day the weather made us an unpleasant surprise. The wind was extremely strong (about 20 m/s) and in the steppe of Kazakhstan we indeed felt it to the full extent.
For safety reasons the erection of the rocket was postponed, State Commission meeting to make a decision was scheduled for evening.
After roll-out we visited pad 254 where Soyuz manned spacecrafts and Progress cargo vehicles are assembled and International Space School where despite the weather we managed to launch rocket models.
In the evening the wind fell, the Commission took a decision to install the rocket and by morning we knew that the launch will take place as scheduled.
City sightseeing tour was quite short due to the unusually cold weather while Baikonur history museum impressed our guests greatly.
The best and most interesting events were scheduled for evening. We walked along the famous Cosmonaut Alley and attended international press-conference of prime and back-up crews held in Cosmonaut hotel.
The launch was scheduled for 03.26, local time (00.26, Moscow time), so after traditional souvenir shopping our guests had time to rest since the night program promised to be very busy but who thinks of weariness witnessing the history of space exploration being made?
We saw the crew off from Cosmonaut hotel, as we can judge from our experience this moment is one of the most emotional, then watched crew’s ready-to-go report at 254 pad and while the cosmonauts have been preparing to the launch inside the spacecraft spent about 2 hours in another remarkable museum.
We arrived to the viewing site in advance. Finally the trusses separated, we heard the countdown, the rocket lifted off hiding in the clouds and we cont the seconds to the orbit. A couple of hours to sleep and we go to watch the docking on-line and later hatch opening and communication session.
The program is completed to 100% and it’s time to leave Baikonur. But we’re already planning to come back to see another crew off to space. Wanna join us?