Ansari: Before the flight I was worried I would be a nervous wreck. I had told my flight surgeon, “If you see my blood pressure or my heart rate is high, don’t let them stop the flight!”
Olsen: Even walking out to the launchpad, we had all of these heart monitors.
Garriott: You’re walking to this fully fueled rocket, full of kerosene and oxygen. The thing is so cold it’s covered with white frost. The air that’s near it is coming streaming down the sides because it’s cooler and denser. It’s very clear that you are stepping into something that is on the edge, so to speak. And you climb on board.
Ansari: I was told that Greg Olsen was very calm.
Olsen: I had the lowest heart rate of any of us. Sixty beats per minute on launch.
Shuttleworth: He’s telling that to everybody.
Ansari: I had to practice meditation, all sorts of things, to bring my pulse down.
Simonyi: Being in the Soyuz before launch is the greatest. You feel so centered, so comfortable. There’s this nice humming noise. It smells fantastic. And you have plenty of time. The whole point, I think, is that there’s no hurry. There’s no pressure. They have these two words. One of them is normalna, which means “normal.” The other one is spakoyna, which is like “easy” or “quiet.” These are the chief words during that time.
Ansari: You sit there and you’re like, “Oh my God, I’m finally here!” It’s a surreal situation. You’re like, “I’m actually sitting on top of a rocket. In a few minutes it will ignite, and I will be sent off with these amazing speeds into space.” For someone who is a civilian, it’s, like, unbelievable.
Simonyi: So you are there and they say, “You guys, we have about 30 minutes, and you have nothing to do. Do you want to listen to some music?” I said, “Sure.” And so they were playing Abba’s “Money, Money, Money,” which I didn’t recognize at first, but the other cosmonauts recognized it right away, and they were kind of nudging me. Yeah, everybody had a laugh.
Garriott: I would have called ours elevator music. Immediately what struck me is, “Here we are in the elevator to the heavens–listening to elevator music.”
Olsen: If I could have had music? “Ride of the Valkyries.”
Simonyi: In your hand is this checklist that is prepared on Microsoft Word and printed on a normal laser printer. It’s nothing special. It’s just this checklist held together by three rings. You basically just hear the checklist on the radio. All the commander does is look at the indications and reports, but the ground has the same indications. There are no activities for the crew.
Shuttleworth: It’s a bit dull, to be honest. You’re on a live mike, so you really don’t want to be chattering away.
Garriott: I settled in the chair and took a nap. There is nothing happening during that 40-minute window. You are in this adrenaline lull. Then the radio comes back on, says “We are five minutes from launch,” and stuff starts happening.
Olsen: Everything has a procedure when you take off. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3. And they follow it, one by one.
Simonyi: It’s like going to the opera or the symphony. You take the score with you to understand what’s going on. You appreciate more if you have the written score.
Garriott: Even before you can feel the thrust, you can feel that there is a massive amount of fluid shifting. Then the engines start some seconds prior to liftoff, so you can feel all that stuff power up. You can feel a bit of sway because of the wind. And then, right on time, right at launch moment, the Soyuz just very gently, but confidently, begins to step off the pad.
Olsen: Listen, when I felt that rocket rumbling, I got serenely peaceful. I’m thinking, “Yes! The next 10 days belong to me, and nobody can take this away from me.”
Garriott: You are going, “Well, okay, if this goes well, it’s going to be a gentle ride up. If this goes badly, hopefully that escape tower is going to work. Either way, life or death, it’s going to be pretty raucous!”