Sunday, October 31, 2010

Progress Launch

Posted the pictures in the last post but thought I would write a bit about the launch. I was pretty amazing and certainly an unforgetable experiance. Flying into Kazakhstan we landed on an airstrip and then walked off the plane onto the runway and to the "terminal" (it was closer to a shed than a terminal). The landscape couldn't be more different from Moscow. Its desert-like and the town is the only thing thing for miles. Its a small little town, Baikanour, and essentially is there to support the Cosmodrome (launch site).

I got to explore the city a bit on some tours but the highlight for sure was the Cosmodrome. The Progress (Russian resupply vehicle) launch is a multiday event. On Monday morning the doors of the processing facility open at exactly 7am and starts it's train ride to the launch pad. As it rolls by you are just a few feet from it so its pretty interesting. It takes a few hours to slowly march to the pad, but once there people spring into action. Once it gets there it only takes about 30 minutes to lift it up and get it settled on the launch pad. The second day is reserved for last minute items and then Wednesday starts the launch sequence. They hold a commission to approve the Go for launch and then 9pm that night the launch starts.

Baikanour is an area of wide open landscape and horizon, so when its pitch black and the rocket lights its quite a sceen. Night becomes day in alsmost an instant and the rocket slowly lifts off the pad. In just a minute or two its hard to pick it out from the other thousands of stars you can see on a Kazakhstan night, but you can still hear it as it climbs into space.

Beyond the launch the historical portion was incredible too. The lauch pad used for Progress is the same one Yuri Gaugarin lifted off from and became the first human in space. Also out my window I kept seeing this little shack and until the day before I left I didn't know thats the cottage that he slept in before he launched. There were a ton of other stories from the experiance but I thought I would share a few. The pictures are posted on the link below from the other post. Enjoy!

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