Circumstances at Baikonur were perfect when cosmonaut André Kuipers was launched into space last December: Temperatures around -30 degrees Centigrade and crystal clear skies. Why do the Russians continue using their remote base in the middle of Kazachstan’s endless steppe?
Baikonur, 21 December 2011 – Finally. Today is the day we have been living up to for a long time. The launch of Soyuz TMA-03M, with ‘the’ Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers on board. It is still dark outside when I wake up around 8 o’clock. Today our program consists of two major visits. First we will go to the furthest launch location at the cosmodrome: the Proton launch facility. Then we have some time in the city before going to launch pad 1 for the launch in the early evening.
Baikonur, 20 December 2011 – After breakfast at our hotel we are greeted again by our guide Elena and driver Said. The uncomfortable van is heated up and waiting for us, this time with the Tsenki security lady already inside. When we leave she hands us two “cosmodrome rules” forms and asks us to sign a list with our names on it. No idea why this was not needed yesterday, but we happily comply. We are waved past the city exit checkpoint, and easily pass the cosmodrome entrance checkpoint. Then again a long empty road to the cosmodrome facilities. This time we go straight on, towards the far end of this middle section at site 250. This launch pad is no longer active, but of great historical importance, as it was built for the Russian space shuttle Buran in the 1980’s. (more…)
Baikonur, 19 December 2011 – At the moment I write this I have spent 28 hours in Baikonur. That is 26 more than when I wrote my blog yesterday. But it feels like more, way more. A day with a full schedule and weird coincidences, which can turn an ordinary trip into a great adventure! It definitely turned these 26 hours into an experience that feels like a week. It started with the alarm clock at 7:30 this morning… (more…)
When starting the initiative for a space tweetup in Baikonur I was hoping for a large number of live attendees to accompany me to Kazakhstan for the December 21 launch. But with launch dates being suspended indefinitely after the Progress M12-M loss in August, and a late announcement of new – still uncertain – launch dates around Christmas, it is not a surprise that many interested would not risk an expensive trip to the middle of nowhere under those circumstances.
So here I am, rethinking the idea of the tweetup. How can we have a tweetup without any other spacetweeps in Baikonur? Well, the answer is simple: I will have all fellow spacetweeps travelling with me! This is 2011! Virtual presence at a tweetup is as valuable as physical presence! Past launch events have shown that tweeps do not necessarily need to be onsite to have great interaction with each other and with folks present! Livestream video is now commonplace during all international launches, be it by NASA, Roscosmos, Arianespace or even the Chinese space agency. A combination of Twitter and these live images make for a great event.
So no need to be disappointed about travelling to Baikonur by myself (well, in a small tour group with a handful of non-tweeps space fans). I will represent all my spacetweep friends that follow the event through several news updates, video feeds and my reports on twitter! And I will do my best to add some couleur locale to all that news. Sort of a live onsite reporter on twitter for all my followers. I will do the travel and stand the blistering cold, while the other participants can enjoy the experience from the warmth of their own home or office
I am looking forward to traveling to Baikonur with all of you! Please follow my live adventures here, from 17 until 24 December.
Note: Remco will travel to Baikonur to attend the launch of Soyuz TMA-03M on 21 December 2011. On this date NASA astronaut Donald Pettit (@astro_pettit), ESA astronaut André Kuipers (@astro_andre) and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononeko will be launched to ISS. Here they will join the current ISS crew to form a normal 6-men crew again, as expedition 30 and 31.
It took me awhile to prepare this set of photos as I wanted to pick the absolute best of my 2011 experience with the final 3 Shuttle launches in Florida (plus one scrub!). I wanted to portray the craziness that occurs in the press site, but more importantly the beauty of this historic exploration program. The final photo makes my eyes a little puffy as it portrays one of the crew check-out team (#1) walking out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) after saying his final goodbyes and receiving many congratulations from colleagues and strangers. The Shuttle program has been launching my entire life and I was lucky to witness 5 launches (125, 132, 133, 134, 135) and a 3 scrubs (127, 127, 134), I was there for SpaceShipOne’s three flights in 2004, and I’m optimistic about the future of human exploration in space.
These photos were originally posted on my website (I tweet as “RyInSpace” regularly, but I don’t blog on my site often): www.RyInSpace.com
SpaceTweepSociety.org and the STS-135 Kennedy Space Center NASATweetup is reported on by Charles Atkeison (@AbsolutSpaceGuy) on Canada’s News Talk Radio in Saskatchewan – 980 AM Regina and 650 AM Saskatoon, on July 7, 2011, including an update on L-1 activities for space shuttle Atlantis.
With the end of the shuttle era and for the foreseeable future, our nation’s maned space flight program, we wanted to have a place where tweeps can come and leave their thoughts, memories, experiences, etc involving the space shuttle program. Leave your comments below and we’ll archive them on a special page after landing / wheel stop.
All in all, these recent events show us that even after a space access system has been working for 30 years and more than 60 years after launching the first satellite, getting complex systems or people to space is still, as the saying goes, rocket science.
We had really tried to plan a big gathering for this launch where tweeps involved in the NASA Tweetup and those just attending launch could all meet up. The schedule for the Tweetup made it very difficult to find a time when all could gather.
Due to the launch delays, there is now a much better opportunity for tweeps to get together, because the launch time is earlier in the day. So tweeps, if you are on the Space Coast for the launch, try to make it over to Grills in Port Canaveral at some point afterward. The food is good, and hopefully there will be a lot of us who can make it. Expect heavy traffic and large crowds. There will probably be tweeps there until pretty late, so don’t stress if you get stuck in traffic.
There are also other opportunities for small gatherings, so if you’d like to list any impromptu get togethers you’re having here, you can leave details in the comments on this post. Registered tweeps can click on a link at the bottom of this post to “watch” it so they will be emailed when new comments are posted. Look for a link that reads, “You are not watching this post, click to start watching.”
Don’t forget, you can also use tools like Foursquare to find out where tweeps you’ve friended are hanging out.