My last days in Star City have been spent with my family. In true Dutch tradition we celebrated St Nicolas who made the trip to Moscow with many presents for the children. My colleague and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti knocked loudly on the door to announce the arrival of St Nicolas. The kids loved it of course. Except for St Nicolas I have not had much time to be with my family. So much still had to be done. The crew and I drank tea with Vladimir Popovkin, the top boss of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. I also collected necessary data for scientists, the so-called baseline data collection. Officially I was on crew rest, the last days in Star City, but I did not have much time to rest. I was sleeping attached to blood pressure monitors and I had an echo taken of my kidneys, blood vessels and more.

Cosmonaut breakfast
On my last morning in Star City the traditional cosmonaut breakfast was served. I especially enjoyed the company of Don, Oleg and my family. We did not eat much during the ceremony. The whole event took twenty minutes and many representatives gave a speech. As crew we gave a short presentation as well. I talked about the kids. Star City has been my second home and I feel comfortable here. As my fellow astronauts, unfortunately this has meant that I have not seen my children as much as I would have liked to, just Children are our future. They will go further and travel longer in space than we do. I made a toast to that.

After breakfast we had to say goodbye to our families. We walked to the bus in the dark. I had to look past the cameras and journalists to find my oldest daughters and my mother. I did not want to lose track of them at this farewell. This was my last opportunity to give them a hug before leaving for space. It is hard for them to realize this and as everyone stayed calm the farewell went without drama. We will be able to have almost daily contact during the next half year. This is actually more contact than was possible during my last few years in training. One more goodbye and I stepped in the bus…
Have a look at the photos of my last days in Star City. A video impression is also available below.