It is freezing cold and a clear day here at the launch base in Baikonur. Hopefully it will stay this way until launch day. The first Sojuz launch that I saw myself was the launch of Frank de Winne in 2009. I did not see much due to the heavy fog. The last launch with my colleagues from Expedition 30 was during a snow storm. Luckily for the spectators of my launch the weather forecast is better. It will be very cold so they should protect themselves.

Next stepWe did a second check of our capsule. For this primerka the Sojuz was already wrapped in an aerodynamic packaging that will guide the rocket through the dense layers of the atmosphere. At around 85 kilometres altitude the packaging will be released and we will be able to look out of the windows. We did not put our space suits on this time, as we had checked these before. The living quarters are packed full. The three of us, together with a technician, crawled inside. It was a tight fit and warm and we had to be careful not to fall through the hole into the command module. Most importantly we inspected all the items on board. We went through each item on the list. I saw the ESA cargo such as the Vessel Imaging Experiment and the Nikon D3s camera fastened to the so-called divan. I need to be able to reach the Fuji 3d camera soon after launch as well as my medical questionnaire, an ESA experiment from the Netherlands.

We are very pleased. In a short while this will be our living room, bedroom, dining room, toilet and attic for two whole days. Practically it also functions as the hallway – with a door – to our real home for half a year: the International Space Station ISS. After the inspection we signed the official documents confirming that the spaceship is in good condition. Just as last primerka we reported our conclusions to the members of the commission. After the last control we had another social moment with the director of Energia here at the Baikonur launch facility, the doctors and the cosmonaut training centre management in Star City. The Sojuz is ready. But how about the rocket? That is the next step. The rocket is still in pieces in the assembly hall next to the building that houses the Sojuz capsule.

Incredible sensation!
The red exhausts of the first and second stages of the Sojuz rocket are striking when towering above you. The upper stage is still unattached and the last preparation to fasten it is being made now. At this moment we can still look straight at the engines and touch the upper stage that will push us the last step into space at 28.000 kilometres per hour. An incredible sensation! When we walked out of the assembly hall we were all aware that these separate stages, the capsule and the final ignition stage on top, will shoot us through the atmosphere as a single machine in only a couple of days…