Soyuz Training - Russia
October 8 -- 12, 2007

Monday was Columbus Day holiday in the States. Obviously, that is not a holiday that the Russians celebrate, so no holiday for me. The week started off with four hours of motion control lectures in the morning. We continued to go through all the different types of maneuvers that are done and how they are accomplished. Each class we start with a brief review/question session of what we have covered recently and then we add to it. It is a good approach since this system is so complicated.

In the afternoon I actually had my first class on the Space Station. I had had a Service Module class. The Service Module is the main Russian segment on the Station. It is the location where the Russian cosmonauts sleep, where the crew gathers to eat, where the toilet is, where the exercise treadmill is, where the atmosphere scrubbing equipment is, and where the computers are that control the Russian side of the Station. So, most of the guts of the Russian segment is in the Service Module.

This class was held in the main Station mockup and we went through a high level discussion of all the equipment and their locations on the Service Module - both inside it and on the outside. It was actually pretty nifty. For all the years that I worked in the Station Program, I heard so much about all this hardware. And, we have our mockups and simulators in the U.S. But, today, instead of seeing a picture or working with the U.S. version of the hardware (very rudimentary), I got to see the high fidelity models that the Russians use. I enjoyed it.

I think I need some water proofing goo for my shoes. I wonder if I can get that here. It has been raining so often that there are puddles everywhere. My shoes get soaked through and my toes get wet when I am walking to class. That definitely does not help keep my feet warm.

I asked folks here how the decision is made by the powers that be to turn on the heat in the buildings. What I was told was that there is some formula that is used along the lines of the temperature has to be below a certain level for a certain number of days in a row. Once that happens, then cold weather is considered to have arrived for the year and the heat is turned on. I do not know what the temperature is or how many days that it needs to be at that temperature. I do know that it is still chilly in my classrooms.

The rest of my day was gym time and study. Plus a little goofing off. There are lots of folks from NASA coming and going this week because of the Soyuz launch on Wednesday. So, there were some folks in town that I have not seen in awhile and we had a group dinner together. Then I hit the books for my test on Wednesday.

Tuesday morning was another four hours of motion control. Apparently next week will be the first time we do motion control stuff in the simulator. So, today the instructor did a huge review of everything we have covered so far as part of the preparation work for the simulator session. Except for not knowing a couple of the acronyms in Russian (I knew what they were in English), I felt like I knew everything he went over today. That is good, because that means I have been able to keep up with this complicated and information packed system.

In the afternoon I had a practical session in the simulator working with the communications systems. It was very straightforward. Afterwards, I spent some time with the treadmill in the gym and then I spent the evening polishing my electrical power system knowledge.

It was a bit colder today. You can feel it in the air - even though it is still 50ish (or a little below) and raining, the air has a cold bite.

I had my electrical power systems test first thing Wednesday morning. It went well. I was pleased and so was my instructor. After that, since the test was only scheduled for an hour (took about 40 minutes), I had a second class squeezed into my 2 hour block. This one was a mini-motion control seminar. In some ways, it was kind of like having a second test. I spent an hour being asked questions by the instructor. Then I had Russian class. Sigh. Still just mushing along with it. Still not having enough time to do much homework. Still a long four hours.

Afterwards, I did a very shortened gym workout and then I watched the Soyuz launch. The NASA IT folks have managed to somehow have NASA TV piped over with the Armed Forces Network TV that we get. The launch was very nifty. It was nice to be able to understand some of what they ground was talking about with the crew. After that, I mostly goofed off. I did a little reading, but not too much.

Thursday was an interesting morning. I had a class on the Soyuz "panels." This is a class that I would have had at the beginning of my time here, had the instructor been available. I do not even remember now why he was not able to teach the class then. The class went over all the ways that the crew can interact with the Soyuz systems - how you get data to and from the computers, what information is shown on all the displays, etc. So, I went back to the basics. But, it was a thorough class and I am definitely getting more information than I have picked up about the various displays in my other classes. I learned some of the subtleties and/or gee whiz aspects.

In the afternoon I had classes on the Soyuz TV system. That, too, is very straight forward system.

It was really cold today. The outside temperatures were in the upper 30's. I could not wear enough layers to keep warm in my classes. Plus, they are replacing the radiators in many of the rooms, so, at the moment, they could not have heat if they wanted to.

I did not study at all tonight. There was a reasonable amount of family and friends in Star City because of the launch. It is interesting, but the Russians tend to make a bigger deal out of the Soyuz docking with the Station rather than its launch. It is almost considered to be bad luck to celebrate before the crew gets to where they need to be. The docking is two days after the launch, so many of the guests that went to the launch hang around until the docking since that is when all the official ceremonies are. We had a group dinner and then we spent some social time together.

TGIF! I started off with a motion control session in the mini-trainer as prep work for the real simulator next week. It was a good, if not frustrating, session. The instructor asked a lot of questions, which is fine. But, half the time I could not figure out what exactly he was asking (yes, I know that is a common theme with me). I felt like telling him at one point that if he does not raise the flag to indicate he is changing subject, I will have a hard time following him. And, if I tell him I do not understand the question, that does not mean I do not know the answer, it means I do not understand the question, so do not keep repeating the same words to me. Rephrase the question so I know what you are asking. I think he was frustrated also. Oh well.

Next I had a practical session in the Soyuz simulator going over the panels. It was good. It would have been better at the start of my trip, but now is better than never. In the afternoon I was supposed to be back in the simulator going over the TV system. But, apparently there was a scheduling conflict and someone else was using the simulator. So, the class was canceled. We were able to dig up the instructor for the last class of the day and, luckily he was free. So, I was able to finish up the day early. My last class was another Station Service Module class on its composition and construction.

Because I got done early, I was able to go with the folks to the Control Center and watch the docking. That was fun. Normally, NASA has a party out in Star City after docking. However, because the actual docking was so late in the evening, the usual management and others in town did not come out to Star City. So, after we got back from the Control Center, those of us staying here just did our usual hanging out and watching a movie. On Saturday I spent a lot of time in the gym doing cardio exercise while watching TV. It was fun. Then we had our usual trip to the grocery store and a group dinner. It was a typical Saturday - nice and relaxing. Sunday was a study day. Not too much studying, but enough (well, hopefully, enough). We actually had our first snow today. It started out raining in the morning and, it actually felt warmer than it was yesterday. But, at some point the rain turned to snow and snowed the rest of the day. Brrr.

Seven weeks down, five to go. . .

© Shannon Walker   2009

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