Soyuz Training - Russia
October 22 -- 26, 2007

Monday I started back in with the analog portion of the motion control system. This was the part of the system that I had classes on a month ago. I figured that the instructor would have had a short review, but he did not. He just jumped right in and provided me with a flood of new information. Let's just say that since I had not closely looked at the material in four weeks, I was not up to speed the subject. It was a whirlwind four hours.

In the afternoon I had a class on the Service Module composition and construction. As it turns out, there were training meetings last week between all the international partner training managers. Because of these meetings my "training flow" (i.e., the amount of stuff I have to know) is going to be reduced for this particular subject. NASA has been working extensively with the Russians to try and reduce the amount of time that crews spend in training outside of their home country. They want us to be able to stay at home as much as possible. So, in cases where the crew make up looks like you will have two of one nationality and one of the other (for a three person crew), then the one person does not have to become as proficient in the hardware and software of the segment that they do not belong to. For example, if I end up flying with two Russians, then I do not need to be an expert on all the Russian systems. There are some things that I will need to have a certain amount of depth on, but if there are problems with something, it would be up to the Russians to do any in depth troubleshooting or repairs. So, by going to a concept of "users" and "specialists" on the various systems, we can cut down the training when you only need to be a user. That is what happened in this case.

However, because it is expected that I will be launching on a Soyuz in the "co-pilot" seat, I will not see much benefit from these types of reductions. The training I am doing now to be qualified to launch in the Soyuz in this role is on the order of six or seven months long and it has to be done in Russia as it is their launch vehicle. In fact, I got the expected schedule for my training next year and the plan is for me to spend thirty-two weeks of next year in Russia. But, the good news is that I will be in Houston for most of April and all of October, so I should be there for the good weather we have then. At any rate, for the Service Module composition and construction training, my schedule this week was cut back from ten more hours on the subject to four. The schedulers put a new subject in its place, so, no free time for me.

After my Service Module class, I had the test prep class on the television system that had been canceled Friday afternoon.

I ended up staying up way too late studying for my tests tomorrow. Actually, do not really know where the time went. I was talking with a fellow astronaut and one of the Russian training integrators on the subtleties of the systems and all of a sudden it was 11:30 p.m. I wrapped up my studying as best as I could, but I still got to sleep about an hour after I wanted to.

Tuesday morning I had two tests - one on the communication system and one on the television system. The testing committee, however, was the same, for both of them. It was a bigger crowd than I had expected; there were about six people asking questions. There was a slightly different approach to these tests than other tests. It was still oral and still with the folks from the designers, your instructors, and whomever else decided that they need to stop by and ask questions (it was the head of the comm/TV training department and the "old guard" comm instructor today), but instead of just starting in with questions, you have "tickets." Basically, there are different sets of questions on several slips of paper (tickets, in Russian) and you randomly pick one. Which ever questions are on the ticket are the questions that you have to answer. Plus any others that they feel like adding on, of course. After each exam they sent me out of the room. This was a bit unsettling as I thought they only did that if you had a borderline performance. Luckily, this was not the case and I passed with excellent grades.

I had motion control the rest of the day. Six hours. Urgh. It was a lot. We spent two hours learning new material; two hours reviewing for the upcoming test (which my instructor took great joy in pointing out that it will be in sixteen days), and two hours in the simulator going over the basics with regard to this portion of the motion control system. After my two tests and my lack of sleep, by the end of the day, my brain was fried.

I took short break and then went to the gym. Afterwards, we gathered together to watch the Shuttle launch on TV. Then I made an attempt at Russian homework and reviewing motion control information, but I was not all that enthusiastic about it.

Wednesday was a typical Wednesday: draining. Two hours of motion control test prep, then four hours of Russian, then two more hours of motion control. In the motion control classes the instructor and I just were not in sync. It was rough. My Russian class was in my cottage again due to the continuing lack of heat and the ongoing, noisy installation of radiators in that part of the building. I made it an early night.

Thursday: what a difference a good night's sleep makes. I felt so much better today. In the morning I had four hours of motion control in the simulator. It was really good. I was in sync with the instructor. And, I felt like I understood the procedures. I could even answer most of the questions the instructor asked as we were going through the procedures. Maybe I am finally getting a hang of this part of the motions control system. During this class I did some manual flying of the Soyuz. I think I even got a little better at it. I was certainly better than the first time I flew it. It is still not entirely intuitive, but I am getting faster at thinking through which inputs I need to make to have the Soyuz go where I want. It was fun.

In the afternoon just had one class. Because of the re-do of my schedule early in the week, I was given a gym session today. I did not have any gym time scheduled in the original schedule. My one afternoon class was a practical go through of all of the equipment in the Service Module in the Service Module trainer. Then I went and had a great workout. My evening was spent doing my usual studying ( or study procrastination as the case may be. . . ).

Friday morning I had a very torturous review of the digital portion of the motion control system. The instructor kept asking me things like what is the most important thing about xyz. It did not matter how many things I could relate about xyz, I never seemed to pick out what he considered to be the most important. "Yes, you are right, but you should have said this. . ."

After that, I started a new Station system - the computer system. These classes were not bad at all since I am fairly familiar with the Russian side of the Station due to my job before being selected as an astronaut. So, not much was new to me (except the Russian acronyms). I cannot say that I was not glad when the week was over, though.

It was a typical weekend - goof off and grocery shop on Saturday and catch up on sleep and study on Sunday. Russia ended their daylight savings this weekend. Our days are getting noticeably shorter now. I checked the web and at the start of the week, sunrise was at about 8:15 a.m. and sunset was at just past 6:00 p.m. - roughly 9 hours and 45 minutes of daylight. By the end of the week, the day's length was 20 minutes shorter. However, because of going off of daylight savings, the sunset is now before 5:00 p.m. Remember, my classes do not get out until 6:00 p.m. Urgh.

© Shannon Walker   2009

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