Shuttleworth: It’s a profound experience. You’re mixing moments of terror with moments of pure joy.
Olsen: At launch, we got to about three and a half G’s. I tried to raise my arm, and it felt like I had a 10-pound weight on it.
Ansari: The pressure was not bad at all. Between the first stage and the second stage, it was like time stopped. Everything came to standing still for just a few seconds. Then it started back again. You get a kick there.
Olsen: After about eight minutes the G forces go away and you know you’re going close to 17,000 miles an hour. It’s a constant velocity, so there’s no force.
Shuttleworth: The thing I remember as being quite striking was this collection of very domestic sounds that kicks in after the main-engine cutoff. Mechanical sounds, like the air circulation and the conditioning, and then bits and pieces are kind of kicking in. You’ve got alarm clocks and fans, and you’ve got a big device called the “globus.” It’s a ball–your map, basically–that turns, and it starts going tick, tick, tick, like a cuckoo clock. You’ve just gone through this extraordinary experience of getting up into space, and then suddenly it’s like waking up inside the workshop of an old Swiss clockmaker or something. So it’s this amazing contrast between what you might expect–which should involve special effects and background music–and the very mechanical physical reality of it.
Ansari: The next thing I knew, this pen that was attached to a string started floating. It was just so crazy in my head. I was like, “Oh my God, I’m in space!”
Olsen: When you go weightless, one of the effects is that you have to urinate a lot because of fluid shift.
Simonyi: The fluids are behaving differently in the bladder.
Olsen: So, I’m dying to go, and finally I’m saying to myself, “Gee, I’m probably going to have to use this diaper. This might smell the capsule.” I lean over to the commander–on the surface, he’s like a stern Russian, but he’s a great guy–and tell him, like I’m tipping him off.
Simonyi: In the capsule you communicate by nudges, because you all face forward and it’s hard to turn your head. You can’t see each other. But you can certainly feel the rest of their body. You are kind of pretty much just joined.
Olsen: Then he leans over to me and says, in English, “Don’t worry, Greg Olsen. I already went.” Once I heard that, I just let go.
Garriott: I did wear and need a diaper during launch. You’re psychologically motivated not to need it, but you quickly learn to get over your difficulty and use the device as designed.
Olsen: It didn’t smell. Those diapers are well made.
Garriott: I don’t think there is any way I could have gone the distance without it, so to speak.
Ansari: It took another while before they allowed us to take off the belts and be able to float in the cabin.
Simonyi: When you are weightless and in the seat, it’s an interesting feeling, but not that big a deal. When I saw Oleg [the flight engineer] open the hatch above and fly out of his seat, through the hatch, and into the living room, that was amazing.
Olsen: We have this habitat module on the top.
Simonyi: There’s this famous picture of Christ rising by the medieval painter [Matthias] Grünewald. It’s just a fantastic painting, and these guys just floating like angels reminded me of it. It’s amazing. And then you do it. I mean, it’s fabulous.
Garriott: When you actually get a chance to look down at Earth from space, of course the view is spectacular. You can tell you’re high because of the blackness of space, the curvature of the earth. But the view, at least looking straight down to the ground, isn’t that different from the view you might see out of an airplane window.
Simonyi: We had a Velcro curtain on the window. At one point I was trying to steal a glimpse of Earth, but [the commander] nudged me, and he raised his voice and ordered me to stop. In a real commander fashion.
Ansari: They really caution you the first couple of days about looking out the window, especially looking at the earth.