Spilt coffee and sleepless nights: Cosmonaut details ISS life ahead of new mission

With last-minute preparations at the Baikonur cosmodrome in full swing, Fyodor Yurchikhin, Russian commander of the Soyuz TMA-09M, shared with RT his experiences of life in zero-gravity ahead of the upcoming ISS mission.

The countdown to liftoff will start after midnight. At 20:31 GMT
a spacecraft with three crewmembers will blast off from the same
pad used by Yuri Gagarin at the dawn of the space age. If all
goes to plan, just six hours after launch commander Fyodor
Yurchikhin, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and European Space Agency
astronaut Luca Parmitano will reach the International space
station as part of Expedition 36.

For Yurchikhin this will be his fourth space flight. An
experienced cosmonaut with total 30 hours in space, he says the
days and months without his family is still the toughest part.

“There’s not physical fatigue that dominates, but
homesickness. Here you are sitting in the cabin, Moscow at the
side, and it is always at the side, in the North. You’re looking
at the clock, you know that the family is there drinking tea, and
you were not there,”
he says.

Yurchikhin recalls that the first time he was in space, during a
conversation with mission control broadcast worldwide, he was
given a chance to talk to his wife.

“I literally shouted to her that she is my best girl in the
world. Is that not crazy?”
he recalls.

This time he will have to leave his family for nearly half a
year. He has a packed schedule ahead of him.

Along with his colleagues, Yurchikhin will make three spacewalks
to work on the exterior of the platform, repair the
thermoregulation system of the functional cargo block, and to
carry out a number of scientific experiments. His first walk is
planned for June. The crew is also tasked to meet multiple cargo
ships carrying supplies.

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano (R), U.S. astronaut Karen Nyberg (L) and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin pose for a picture at Baikonur cosmodrome May 24, 2013. (Reuters / Sergei Remezov)

Yurchikhin notes that in his free time he plans to enjoy evenings
with international colleagues and of course sleep. But even with
such a schedule he stresses that its hard to sleep whilst on
board the ISS.

“You create the illusion of support — set your head against
something, and that’s it, you can sleep, even you roll from side
to side, though, you still are hanging in the air, but it seems
like you are lying. Illusion,”
he says. Without such point,
“the body automatically takes a fetal sleeping position, and
you wake up immediately”.

Sleep is not the only inconvenience, the cosmonaut says. Even
drinking coffee can sometimes be difficult.  “But I would
like just to put a cup on a table so that it does not fly
around,”
he says. “And then I think that I’ll come home
and will put a cup on a table.”

Setting the Soyuz-FG carrier rocket with the Soyuz TMA-09M manned spacecraft on the 'Gagarin' launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome. (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Astapkovich)

Flying aboard a Soyuz rocket is nothing new for Yurchikhin, but
it will be a new experience for his colleagues Nyberg and
Parmitano. The latter is the youngest of the three. Thirty-six
year old Parmitano is a former fighter pilot and the European
Space Agency’s (ESA) newest astronaut. He was selected for
training just four years ago.

Nyberg, the wife of astronaut Douglas Hurley and a mother of
three, is going to see the ISS for the second time. In 2008 she
visited the station during a 14-day shuttle flight, but she says
that she does not remember a lot of that mission and is very
excited to live there again. She also holds a PhD in mechanical
engineering.

The three will stay on the station until November and will be
joining three astronauts already on the ISS – Russians Pavel
Vinogradov and Aleksandr Misurkin, and American Chris Cassidy.

This article originally appeared on: RT