Simonyi: The Soyuz is put into a constant rotation so that the solar panels face the sun. Looking at the earth while the spacecraft is rotating can get you sick. You can get sick even if you don’t look at the earth. That’s called space adaptation syndrome. And that rotation exacerbates the effects of space adaptation syndrome. So for the first couple of orbits we weren’t supposed to look at the earth.
Ansari: You have to take it really easy, move slowly, move your head slowly or don’t move your head at all if possible. I felt great during the launch. I felt great right after the launch. Then it was time to sleep, and we set our sleeping bags.
Olsen: It’s just, like, so weird when you sleep for the first time. I struggled to get to sleep, just because you’re so excited. It’s strange, and it feels good.
Simonyi: I was dreaming that I was on the ground. I’m in Star City just training, filling out this form, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then I was awakened by the commander. I was kind of disoriented. Where am I? Oh, I’m in a spacecraft going around the earth!
Ansari: After I woke up, I was like, “Oh, it’s my first day in space, first morning in space.” I was so excited. I started flying out of my sleeping bag. Flying around, looking out the window. Going from one window to the other window.
Garriott: Just being able to flip and spin like an incredible professional gymnast and land with your face next to a window looking out at a big gorgeous sunrise is really fantastic.
Ansari: That’s when the whole Soyuz started spinning around my head. I knew that I just did something I wasn’t supposed to–and I got really ill.
Olsen: About 40 percent of all people who go into space do. It has nothing to do with being macho.
Ansari: I didn’t let them see it. I thought, “Oh my God, they will think I’m stupid. I have my vomit floating around the cabin.” I managed to grab a bag before it got too bad. I just had a little bit of it floating around. The good thing about it is it’s floating, so you can catch it. I was able to catch it with a napkin and put it in the bag before they all could see it.
After two days of travel, the Soyuz capsule reaches low Earth orbit and begins to dock with the International Space Station.
Simonyi: Docking is fully automatic.
Olsen: The commander has the ability to take over the ship, but it’s all done by radio controls. You’re basically bouncing a radio beam off the ISS. That’s telling you how far away you are, plus what velocity you’re approaching the station at.
Simonyi: You start being aware of the presence of this incredible structure. You see it very small at first. And then you can see details of it, just through an optical sight. It’s like a very old-fashioned–I don’t know what it is. There is nothing, no items like that anymore, I’m sure. It’s a periscope, in a sense, but you don’t put your eye next to it. It’s a projection on a matte glass: it has this faint, faint image. It’s very sharp, of course, but it’s not very bright.
Shuttleworth: I was focused on the periscope, because that’s where it’s approaching.
Simonyi: That instrument could have been constructed in the 19th century. Not the 20th century but the 19th century.
Shuttleworth: It’s sort of a functional minimalism. It would be very hard to break it.
Simonyi: Toward the very end, the retro-rockets fire. They just decrease the speed just by the tiniest amount. They pause more than fire, and the fire is just this white flash. But they fire right next to the side windows. And you can see this white flash and little bubbles, little globs of unburned propellant that go every which way.
Shuttleworth: I was intensely focused on the periscope, and after we docked, I looked out my window and suddenly the radiators and solar panels show up. There’s this bloody great structure there, and it’s very dramatic. You dock with the sun behind you, so it’s very, very stark, and everything around it is completely black. It’s very stunning, very space, and very cool.