Lara Keytel - April 23, 2002: The gathering of Mark - This way please!
Since Sunday, April 21st, the Science and project management teams have extended their multi tasking skills to include that of temporary tour operators and facilitators. Fifty people, including friends and family, have come from the four corners of the World to support Mark at the launch in Baikonur. Mark thought it apt that they be booked into the infamous “Hotel Rossija”. The hotel, built by the government during the communist era, has over 2600 rooms and can sleep in excess of 6000 guests. No wonder it was famous for booking people in and never checking them out.
Since our tour support group arrived in Moscow, they have been on a whirlwind schedule that has left no stone unturned. Nicolette Cronje and her team have put together the most incredible schedule that includes tours of Moscow, Star City (where Mark has been living since August last year), TSUP (mission control) and Energia (designers of equipment used on the ISS). The group will experience a parabolic flight where a jet plane climbs to 60 000ft, then dives to 10 000ft over 30 seconds, and the passengers experienced weightlessness during the 30 seconds. On the 24th of April, we board a plane for Baikonur, in Kazakhstan, to watch the launch. The plane will leave just after midnight and it is a 3 hour flight. On arrival we will attend the final press conference, in which the crew for the flight will speak through a glass partitioning and then we will watch them board the rocket and blast off for the ISS.
To the children of Africa
Last night we attended a reception at the lavish “Hotel Baltschup Kemblinski on the banks of the Moscow River, as guests of the Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Mochubela Jacob Seekoe, The Ambassador honoured Mark and his family , and as he comes from a scientific background, was highly complimentary about Mark's efforts with the science and education program and it’s impact on the youth in South Africa. Perhaps even more poignant was the speech given by Mark’s dad, Richard Shuttleworth. The essence behind Mark’s vision and dreams was relayed through his father’s eyes, and we all hung on every word as he explained the vision that the future lies in the hands of the children. As we toasted the children of Africa, I think there wasn’t a person in the room without a lump in their throat.
This part of the experience has been really interesting for me is that I am getting to hear real life stories about Mark for the first time, from when he was at the University of Cape Town, starting his first company and then moving on up the ranks. Some of the people here haven’t seen Mark for almost eight years, and yet they have made this pilgrimage here to support him. This really illustrates so poignantly the kind of person that Mark Shuttleworth is. There isn’t one person here who isn’t in awe of his achievements, firstly as an entrepreneur, and secondly and perhaps more importantly, as a friend, brother, son and colleague. Mark treats everyone as an individual on the same footing, he believes in opportunities and “Carpe Diem” or seize the day.
I wish for everyone to realise their dreams, believe in themselves and Carpe Diem. On that note I am going to seize the opportunity to witness the first African blast off to Space.