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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mission Control Center Moscow

 May 28, 2014 Damon and I got in the car and drove 2 hours, in heavy traffic, to view the blast off the Soyuz rocket taking three astronauts to the space station.  I learned a lot on this trip.  First, the rocket was not even here in Russia.  The launch pad is located in Kazakstan so I couldn't look out the window of the Control Center and see a rocket standing there ready to fly into outer-space.  Mission Control is slightly anti-climatic as well.  The experience was totally awesome, but not like in the movies where there are technicians running around and everyone is manning their station coordinating a high tech operation.  This is old hat to the Russians and everything pretty much seems to run itself.
Left side of the huge screen we were watching.  The top was a live feed of the cockpit.

 We arrived in plenty of time.  We got to meet two American astronauts who had spent a year each living in the space station.  I loved hearing their descriptions and was surprised at how down to earth they were.  They totally prefer to live in outer space versus on earth!
The astronauts preparing for blast off.

A live feed of the rocket on the right side of the large screen.
 We hung around, nibbled on some food then, in the middle of the night we watched the count-down and blast off.  As I was watching the rocket speed into the atmosphere on the right side of the screen, I was surprised at how still the astronauts were on the right side of the screen.  There were tons of "thumbs up" and "high fives".  I could see straps whipping around, but the men were fastened into their seats so tightly that they did not move - at all.  We watched the liquid fuel boosters separate and fall.  At 500+ seconds into the flight, Mission Control Russia takes over the control of the rocket. We hung around for about 10 minutes after the change of control the loaded up back into our cars and drove the short, 30 minutes home - without traffic.
Blast off!
Rockets are sent to the space station four times a year to switch out the astronauts.  Two times in the fall and two in the spring.  In between these trips, supply rockets are sent to the station.
They dock the rocket that they took into outer space onto the space station and use it again to return back to earth.
Each mission has one Russian and one American.  The third spot could be a Chinese or European.  As much money as each country or the EU contributes to the mission program determines how often they can send someone to the space station.  This mission included a German.
This was sort of a big deal mission due to strained relations between Russia and America right now.  The next morning I woke up and read several news stories about it on my news apps.  
The only facilities to make the rocket engines to blast a rocket  into space are located in Russia thus leaving America dependent on Russia for space exploration at this time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

VDNKh Park

The former Exhibition of Economic Achievements of the USSR (VDNKh) is now the All-Russian Exhibition Centre.  The park has had various purposes throughout history.  Begun in 1939 is was used as a major agricultural exhibition.  Twenty years later it was chanted to a vast park to show off the nation's achievements in economics, science and technology.  After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the grounds and pavilions became private businesses.  Many of the exhibit halls are still used as retail showrooms, yet the complex is only a shadow of what it used to be.
Damon and I took the metro on Memorial Day to search out some memorabilia left over from the Soviet days.  We spent a few hours slowly wandering the park and gazing at the monuments.  They are all quiet impressive and speak of an ideal that never quiet worked out.  
A portion of the park is an amusement park complete with a midway, small roller coasters and a large, rather rickety looking ferris wheel.

Space Obelisk
built (1964) 3 years after Yuriy Gagarin became the first man in space 

Main entrance
tractor driver and woman collective farmer

the Russian way to water the lawn.  This truck drove around and around and around to water the grass!

Massive monument to Lenin

Beautiful fountain made of gold mosaic.
People are encouraged to swim!

This is what we came to see!  It was a bit of a hike once we spotted it but well worth the extra walking.  The statue Worker and Woman Collective Farm Worker is made of stainless steel.  Vera Mukhina created this for the Paris Exhibition in 1937 to symbolize the glory and power of the Soviet Union.  With the hammer and sickle raised far above the man and woman's heads, they scream Soviet to the viewing world.  This symbol was chosen to be used on posters for "Mosfilm", one of the most well known Russian movie studios, making it famous throughout the world.  This statue represents a main Soviet ideal where the government owned all the land and the people did all the work.  As soon as Damon saw the statue in the distance he exclaimed "I've seen that symbol before!  It's very famous."
A few nights later we happened to be out driving at night - stuck in slowly moving traffic.  I had a chance to look around and noticed that we were on the highway that goes right past this park.  Each monument was lit-up and looked stunning.     

Sunday, June 1, 2014


If you know me, you know I love Polish pottery! Polish potter is pretty common here in Moscow, but there only seem to be about three basic patterns.  I was delighted when a friend shared this little boutique gift shop that carries a large amount of high-end Polish pottery.  It was a bit of a challenge to find, but well worth the effort.  They also carry some adorable stuffed animals that make excellent baby gifts.
Here are directions my friend sent me.  I think they are priceless and give you a glimpse at the treasure hunt we are often on here in Moscow!
"it is located at Kuznesky Most 21/5.  I took the Kuznesky most metro and then went right out of it and up the street.  You will come to an end and see a starbucks on the perpendicular street.  go around the starbucks and then there is a random circle with a statue.  it is to the right of the statue.  Only in Moscow does a street continue on a different street and have a statue.  Anywhere else these directions would not make sense :)"