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Soyuz

The Russians always launch

Extreme weather no objection for Soyuz

Weer Magazine article spreadCircumstances 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?

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SoyuzTweetup Baikonur – Launch Day!

SoyuzTweetup Baikonur – Launch Day!

More launch pads, SoyuzTweetup and a Launch!

Launch dayBaikonur, 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.

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SoyuzTweetup Baikonur – Day 3

Launch Pads, Space Shuttle and Public Outreach

Gagarin MonumentBaikonur, 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 This launch pad is no longer active, but of great historical importance, as it was built for the Russian space shuttle Buran in the 1980’s.
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SoyuzTweetup Baikonur – Day 2

A week in one day

Soyuz rocketBaikonur, 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…)

SoyuzTweetup Baikonur – Day 1

A late night arrival in Baikonur

Gagarin in BaikonurBaikonur, 18 December 2011 – I write this blog on my first evening in Baikonur. Actually, I crossed the border checkpoint from Kazakhstan less than two hours before writing this. So far I have experienced Baikonur city as dark, remote and extremely cold. When our local guide Elena Galaktionova (that’s her real name) picked us up at the Tyuratam railway station, she herself said that at -25°C even the locals consider it very cold. (more…)

SoyuzTweetup: A new virtual space tweetup concept?

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.