Karen Sharwood - April 18, 2002: Counting down - Time to fly
The pre-flight testing phase is now officially over. I suppose a big sigh of relief would be in order, but on the other hand, this is really just the beginning. It has been such a long haul to think back from when everything first started way back in September sometime and to look at things now and at how everything and everyone has come together so well, even after many a day of window-jumping thoughts and some very close action.
So after all of this testing, the science side of things is slowly wrapping up while the media hype is on the steady rise. We are hosting a whole lot of the guys from the South African press who have made the trek all of the way out here. Not only is it good to hear some new South African accents, but the odd bottle of Mrs B‚s, Milo and lime marmalade has gone down an absolute treat. Bizarre the things you miss (some sunshine and warmth might be quite nice too, pity the press couldn't have organized us any of that). Both Lara and Wayne have also arrived back in Star City early this week and have settled back into the swing of things, although at the moment, things are as far from being normal as Star City is from being warm and having a GAP shop (you can see where my priorities lie).
As one door closes...
Monday saw the start of the quarantine in Prophy 1. Theoretically, this means that no-one should be near the cosmonauts or have any direct contact with them. We all had an exceptionally stringent medical examination that consisted of placing a thermometer underneath our arm for 3 minutes. Of course, this is THE most accurate method of detecting any type of infection. Hmmm, then of course there was the incident where I was denied access through the front door, but was allowed to get in through the back door, walk directly past both Mark and Roberto, walk back down the stairs, past the very same door that I had just been denied access to and into the gym, approximately 1.75 meters away from the entrance. Of course an hour later there was absolutely no problem and I was able to walk in and out without there being any issues or having to take my temperature again? The mind boggles, as do the germs around us apparently.
No shopping zone
All jokes aside, the quarantine situation has been taken (relatively) seriously and we have all been steered away from shaking hands and standing too close to people who have just arrived, look dodgy or who are not in quarantine. This tends to get to you after a while. Besides the feeling of being a little antisocial, a mild strain of paranoia sets in. Imagine being responsible for one of these guys getting flu because you were out partying up a storm with some not too savory characters out here? Quite the responsibility, and really not worth the risk. I of course am taking this completely seriously and even declined the invitation to go shopping in Moscow. Shock horror I know, but some things are a little more important.
So Mark is off to Baukinor early Friday morning after a ceremonial farewell party with the traditional Russian breakfast of champagne and vodka (and all of this at 7:30am!). So I suppose this marks the end of Star City as we know it. Despite feeling anxious, sad and excited all at the same time, the team here is pulling together tighter each day and, like I assume everyone else, is counting down each day until the launch and looking forward to watching Mark finally blast off after all this time spent training. I‚m tipping its going to be a pretty emotional experience.
Good luck Mark! Don't forget to exercise.