Baikonur tour: two launches at one visit
All the last week our tourists from Netherlands, Canada and Russia spent in Baikonur cosmodrome, dipping with enthusiasm and great interest into the atmosphere of preparations to the launch of spaceship “Soyuz TMA-08M” (with the crew Pavel Vinogradov, Alexander Misurkin and Christopher Cassidy). This time the program was absolutely unique. The guests had a wonderful opportunity to visit two launches during this week! Besides, for the first time the manned 4-orbit flight to the ISS was fulfilled by this crew. But let’s start from the beginning.
Early in the morning of the 26th of March we traditionally observed the transportation of the rocket “Soyuz FG” with manned spaceship “Soyuz TMA- 08M” and its installation to the launch pad #1 (Gagarin start). Being so close to the huge rocket preparing for the launch is always one of the most incredible impressions in Baikonur!
Our tourists had less time to sleep in this program, like the crew of “Soyuz TMA-08M” we adjusted to the other schedule, because another adventure was waiting for us at night of the 26th of March – the launch of Proton-M carrying the Satmex-8 satellite that we were lucky to witness! No doubt the scene is unique! Besides, it’s a good chance to compare the launches of different types of the rockets, as two days later we were supposed to see the main event – the Soyuz launch.
Of course we didn’t forget about the cultural program in the city. Museum of history of cosmodrome Baikonur, sightseeing of the city, visit to the International space school – these are the usual components of our program.
On the 27th of March after the walk along the historical alley where cosmonauts and astronauts plant the trees before their flight we finally had the chance to see the main people – the prime and backup crews on the international press-conference in the hotel “Cosmonaut”. There were a lot of questions concerning the new 4-orbit docking plan that meant that the crew will be on the ISS in 6 hours after the launch (instead of 2 days). Besides, it was interesting to know that the crews and their instructors adjusted their schedule in Baikonur 2 weeks before the launch to get used to work at night, because the launch and docking were planned for the night time.
On the main launch day the schedule is always strict. The emotional and memorable moment is the seeing off the crews from the hotel “Cosmonaut”, after that 3 hours before the launch we see the crew wearing spacesuits “Sokol”, they are ready to move to the rocket, and the tourists have time to visit the wonderful museum not far from the observation point, orbital spaceship Buran and memorial houses of S.Korolev and Yu.Gagarin.
Finally all the guests gathered on the observation point setting their cameras and discussing with excitement the coming event. In accordance with the mission plan a manned transportation spacecraft Soyuz TMA-08M was successfully launched from Baikonur launch site at 00:43:20 Moscow Time. The clear sky allowed us to observe the rocket as long as possible. Everyone stayed there until the spaceship entered the orbit in 530 seconds, and only after that cheers and applause rang out.
For the crew of “Soyuz TMA-08M” this short rendezvous and docking became the new step in the ISS space flights, and this crew is unique and made it into history. As for tourists, it was an amazing opportunity to witness the docking and hatch opening process in 6 hours after the launch right in Baikonur in the hotel “Cosmonaut”. Guests and families of the crew watched the process attentively and sighed with relief and happiness when they saw Pavel, Alexander and Christopher floating into ISS. The moment was very emotional and truly unforgettable!
We are sure that tourists won’t forget such a program!
And we invite all of you to participate in an amazing space adventure with us!