Mark Shuttleworth - January 14, 2002: spaceman wuss - We are up and running in Moscow now... a week late but full of energy. Dale Cupido and Karl Prince arrived on Saturday, to coordinate the payload and science programs. They will be here until the project is finished in May, so they brought plenty of reminders of home and lots of warm clothes for the duration. What a huge relief to finally have strong logistical support in this crazy environment! We're also hosting Karen Sharwood at Star City for a two-week stay. Karen is from the UCT Sports Science Institute, responsible for the cardiology experiment) and is also charged with beating me into shape for the flight. She's also been a real hit with the Russians, as have all of our scientists.
So the fitness program got off to a riotous start over the weekend with Karen cracking the whip for baseline data collection and general fitness work. She literally had me cycle until I couldn't cycle any more, to test basic stamina. 'Cycle till you die or can't cycle any longer' was how she described the test. This relationship isn't working well for me. We have to sync with the Russian fitness program, but Karen and Yuri Tsukanov (my Russian fitness coach) seem to have quickly reached agreement on the proper way to get rid of any signs of Christmas fitness in their specimen.
We have finally received the two pieces of gym equipment that we bought in Moscow ages ago... but the treadmill doesn't work because there's no power adapter. Doh. Par for the course over here. Dale is jumping on that problem. The equipment is just standing in the corridor at the Prophy since there doesn't seem to be any other place to put it. Seems as good as any place to start a gym! The NASA folks said their treadmill stood in the corridor one floor down for three years until they finally built themselves a house in Star City, so at least there's some precedent.
So we have a regular training camp here in the Prophy now, sharing resources with ESA (European Space Agency). Roberto Vittori and Frank de Winne, the ESA astronauts on this floor, are thrilled to have some equipment to train on (but no signs of Roberto on the bicycle yet)... we've put together a nice little kitchen too, so it's starting to feel like home away from home. Dale and Karl got off to a great start with a hunter-gatherer mission to Moscow, so we are fully stocked. Suddenly a vaguely normal (though not yet vodka-free) diet seems possible.
Lot's of challenges on the horizon though. We are having to move mountains to get the payload for the February Progress cargo transport launch finalizedc, certified and packed for Baikonur. That launch has been pushed back to Feb 28th but it's still going to be tight, and we are struggling to get even basic information to help us do the work. We have 40kg's of payload allowance on that flight, and we have to get everything that possible can go up ahead of time onto the Progress. There will be some high level meetings in Moscow this week to try to help Dale and Karl get that sorted. And the doctors vetoed Karen Sharwood's participation in the zero-g flight tomorrow
Good news: we finally received a copy of a signed approval from each of the ISS partners. As expected it's conditional upon this being a non-commercial endeavour, which is fine. What a relief to have all of that behind us!
Our work to engage the agencies constructively is bearing dividends. NASA has been fantastic - the guys in Star City have been a tremendous help from day one, but now we are working to have a full time liason in Houston which will make a huge difference to the education component of the project, and to the logistical planning for the payload and science guys. I'm thrilled that we should have an experienced astronaut in Cape Town soon for a few days to help review the plans, and from then onwards we'll have a Capetonian stationed in Houston to keep the communicaitons line clear and constructive. The cooperation has already been very useful for all of us in Star City... we have much better access to documentation and training information now. Still plenty of room for improvement. I think everyone's excited to see what we can accomplish, if a little nervous because of their previous experiences. Vremya pakasheet!