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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.

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