Soyuz Training - Russia
October 1 -- 5, 2007


Monday morning was a full slate of motion control classes. I first had a class of lecture and then a class of working with the mini-simulator. Instructor asks a lot of detailed questions of what we have gone over in the past. In a perfect world, I would be able to keep up with all the reading and know everything. But, this isn't a perfect world and his is not the only class I am taking. So, even though he may not be happy because I cannot answer every single last question (though, I do get a large number of them right), I very much like the review of the material.

In the afternoon I started a new system - the electrical power system. I have the same instructor as I had for my docking system class. I am glad - he is very straight forward and rather entertaining.

For my last timeslot of the day I had gym time scheduled. Unfortunately I could not muster the gumption to go work out. I took a short nap instead. Then I hit the books.

In the evening spent a lot of time studying for my propulsion system test, which is on Thursday. I feel like the propulsion class is putting me behind in my other classes. I am spending so much more time studying this system compared to the other systems becuase I am having to do so much learning on my own. I will definitely be glad to have the test behind me.

I ended up studying late into the night Monday night to try and keep up with all my classes. Consequently, felt sluggish when I got up Tuesday morning. But, I mushed on and had four more hours of the motion control system. The instructor packed lots of information into class today. Luckily, though, the instructor continues to be very clear in his explanations, so I do not have a very hard time following the information. Not sure I will remember it all after today, since we covered so much, but at least I have a good basis by which to start studying.

In the afternoon I had an electrical power class. We had fun, which was good, since I was starting to get pretty tired. Then I was scheduled for admin time. I used it to do a little Russian homework for a change. It was probably not enough for my Russian teacher's satisfaction, but it was better than nothing. Then, sort of went into panic mode over my upcoming test. Yesterday I thought I had a good understanding of the system. Today, looking at some of the actual exam questions that have been asked in the past, I was not so sure.

Wednesday started with an electrical power systems class. Then I had my usual four hours of Russian. The instructor seemed happy with the amount of homework I had done. I certainly did not complete all of what had been assigned, but it must have been enough as I was not scolded for not doing more.

Wednesday evening was quite different from my usual evenings. There was a reception at the American Ambassador's house. All the NASA folks in Moscow and Star City were invited. The reason for the reception was that it is the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of the Sputnik satellite and the two hundredth year of diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States. I did not know that second bit until I got to the party. At the ceremonial part of the party, the NASA administrator and his Russian counterpart signed more agreements for additional cooperative projects in the space arena. The ones signed today had to do with joint scientific studies on the Moon and Mars. It was all very nice. Because my propulsion system test was the next day, I reviewed my notes on the drive over, and then I enjoyed myself with the snacks and party atmosphere. I hit the sack when I got back. I figured at that point either I knew the system or I did not and another hour of studying was probably not going to make a difference.

First thing Thursday morning was my dreaded test. It was a very interesting affair. This test, by far, had the largest number of people in the room asking questions. There was the system expert and my instructor, of course. And, there were instructors from the motion control systems area, there were a handful of management types and there were some people there who I think just came to see the show. The test was definitely not easy at all. There were times, just like on my other tests when I could not actually tell what the heck they were really asking. And, there were times when I would give an answer, then the questioner would launch into some discussion and I would be thinking to myself, "Did I not just say that?" The Russian examiners seem to put a high value on rote answers to certain questions.

In the end, it seemed to me that the test sort of ended up being a food fight between various instructors. The problem was that the propulsion system is just the effector of the motion control system. I am just now having motion control classes. So, my knowledge/understanding of the propulsion system (tanks, valves, engines, sensors, etc.) was quite good because I was able to sort through that system myself. My knowledge of how the system interacts with the motion control system was not as good, since I have not had all the classes on that system. But, that did not stop the old, storied digital loop motion control instructor (whom I do not have), from asking questions about his system. At any rate, after it was over, I was sent out of the room and the instructors got after one another. I could hear some of it through the door. Apparently the propulsion instructor had told me something wrong about the analog loop of the motion control system and the motion control instructor did not like the fact that the propulsion instructor was treading on the ground of the motion control instructors. And, it seemed to go downhill from there.

After all was said and done, I got an excellent on the propulsion system and a "we will wait to assess" on the motion control interactions with said propulsion system. I reckon I can live with that.

As soon as that fun was over, I started classes on the communications system. I had two lectures in that class. It seemed straight forward, but then again, the instructor did not ask any questions of me - so it could be that I only think I understand things. One thing that I think is interesting that is during the landing the Soyuz capsule automatically sends out beacon signal for the search and rescue folks to track you by. While that is not too surprising, once the capsule hits the ground the signal changes from a Morse code type signal to something that the Russians call the "Call of the Seagull." It actually sounds like the sound that a seagull makes. The change in the signal lets the rescue crew know you are on the ground, but why a seagull sound, I do not know.

Then came my last lecture of the day - electrical power. By then my brain was tired and I could not remember many of the things that we had discussed the day before. It was not my best showing in a class. Tomorrow I have an exam prep class in this subject and, I think, the test will be on Monday. So, no rest for the weary. It was back to the books again in the evening.

I thought Friday was going to be a better day than it turned out to be. I had studied a lot the night before, but, it seemed as though my motion control instructor only asked questions on the few parts that I had not been able to review. That was just annoying. At least the afternoon was better. I managed to pull together a respectable showing in my electrical power systems class. And, we covered all the material that we were slated to cover fairly quickly, so we ended the class early. A rare occurrence indeed. As we were leaving the electrical power systems class, we ran into the instructor for my last class of the day (communications systems) Luck was with me and we were able to start that class early. So, I finished my week about an hour earlier than was scheduled. That was nice because it had been a long week.

On Saturday I went into Moscow to hang out with a friend who was on her first trip here. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day. Not at all good for souvenir shopping or seeing Red Square. We were finally forced to give up tootling around and sit in a restaurant and watch it rain. I guess that was not so bad.

Sunday was my usual catch up on sleep and study day.


© Shannon Walker   2009

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