Editor's Note: Cady Coleman, Ph.D. is a NASA astronaut – a veteran of two space missions, who has logged over 500 hours in space. She is assigned to the Expedition 26 crew and is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz 25 in late 2010. Below is a blog written by Cady exclusively for CNN via NASA's Astronaut Office.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://am.blogs.cnn.com/files/2009/12/creamer.jpg caption="Astronaut TJ Creamer gives a press conference at the Baikonur cosmodrome on December 19, 2009."]
By Cady Coleman
Special to CNN
Was it everything he hoped for and dreamed about? Col. TJ Creamer left Earth yesterday on Soyuz 21S, bound for a six month stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Was it worth the wait, the time away from his family and the grueling pace of training around the world? Based on my two space shuttle flights, I predict that launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome was everything TJ dreamed about, and then some!
I’m betting that as we speak, TJ is floating inside the БО (pronounced bay-oh) with a huge grin covering most of his face. I don’t mean to leave out Oleg Kotov and Soichi Noguchi, also onboard the Soyuz yesterday when it launched, but TJ’s veteran crewmates have both been to the ISS before. Oleg spent 6 months as part of Exp 15 in 2007 and Soichi made 2 spacewalks to help assemble the ISS during STS-114, the first post-Columbia mission.
As a trio, the Expedition 22 crew was always great to interact with. They all bring, of course, amazing technical competence to the ISS stage, but Soichi’s quick wit, Oleg’s quiet, slow smile and TJ’s ever-present cheery nature made them a pleasure to train with as well. As Nicole Stott’s backup for Expedition 20, I spent the last 2 years training with my fellow astronauts and cosmonauts in Star City Russia, Tsukuba Japan, Cologne Germany and of course, Houston Texas.
TJ and I didn’t always overlap in those places, but he was known for his generosity in sharing the training lessons that he learned with other crew members. Many of my skills with both large and small computers came from TJ-based-advice. He was especially helpful in hooking me up with cool software to make learning Russian as easy and fun as possible.
Because he was on a mission ahead of me, he also provided helpful lists of Russian vocabulary for our Star City training. My favorites: for water survival “No really, I mean it – I can’t swim!!!!” And for winter survival: “Who has the marshmallows?” (Thanks Teej!)
Along with his reputation as a computer guru, TJ was also known for his contributions to our family-style dinners in Star City. At the top of my list: His scrumptious blinis (pronounced bleenies): delicious Russian pancakes with sour cream. Soichi’s outstanding Japanese curry accounted for some pretty high marks in the Expedition 22 column as well!
TJ’s, Oleg’s and Soichi’s launch yesterday makes me relive my first launch. There is just nothing like the very first time you get to sit on a rocket and launch to space. Most of us have trouble believing that we, as regular earthlings, will actually get to leave the planet, despite our extraordinary job titles.
When I launched on STS-73, it was beyond compare. After eight and a half minutes of being powered into space, I arrived at a place where all the rules are different, and gravity has no role. I remember asking veteran astronauts what it was like in space, and I always saw a particular look in their eyes as they reached back for those memories. It was as if they knew a secret.
When the world around me started floating after main engine cut off (MECO), I suddenly understood that look. It was mesmerizing just to exist and watch and feel. I loved it – and it turns out to be addictive. Sixteen days on STS-73 doing microgravity science experiments and 5 short days on STS-93 to deliver the Chandra X-Ray Observatory were just not enough… I’ve been looking forward to going back ever since I landed!
Seeing the Expedition 22 crew launch makes our upcoming mission more real to me. We are almost exactly a year from flight, and I feel as if our launch as Expedition 26 is rushing toward us at break neck speed. We’ve been training together as a crew these last two months, and it has been marvelously busy.
It is fun to get to know Dimitri and Paolo in preparation for our great – but serious – adventure together. We spent some time in Russia doing simulations in the Soyuz for launch, rendezvous with the ISS and finally landing. Then we met in Houston and these past weeks have been filled with learning how to react to ISS emergency situations, becoming efficient at space walks, and knowing what to expect from “A Day-In-The-Life” on the space station. We’ve also started to get to know each other outside of work. Through both work and play, the things that we learn about our strengths and weakness are slowly but surely making us a stronger team.
Yesterday, Expedition 26 watched the Expedition 22 launch from our respective corners of the globe. We’ll be closely following the adventures of newly-launched TJ, Oleg and Soichi as they join Jeff Williams and Max Suraev on the ISS. After the holiday break, Dima, Paolo and I will be together again, less than a year away from our departure from the planet. Six months aboard the ISS is looming large on our horizon, and I just can’t wait!
‘Til next time,
To follow TJ, some of my fellow Astros and myself on Twitter: @Astro_TJ; @Astro_Cady; @NASA_Astronauts
As Exp 26, we’ll join Scott Kelly on Exp 25: @StationCDRKelly. As Exp 27, Ron Garan will join Exp 26: @Astro_Ron
Program Note: Watch CNN's American Morning as we follow Cady on her year-long mission to space, and check back here for blogs, photos and video updates from Cady as she documents the behind-the-scenes life of an astronaut.