Tomorrow we begin quarantine. 15 days to liftoff. It’s so close it’s palpable, we hope there won’t be another delay. We are aware of the possibility that the April 3 date might not be final and that there still might be a few more “launch windows”. Not the other hand, on April 15, four NASA astronauts are scheduled for launch so it stands to reason that our launch will be on time. In any case, our training is proceeding full steam ahead and the excitement is at its height.
As I said in the television piece (Channel 12, Yigal Mosko, March 18, 2022), every time I put on my astronaut suit and sit in seat number 1 of the Dragon spacecraft, I imagine the sensations of sitting on the tip of the immense Falcon rocket, which is going to carry us beyond the Kármán line in two weeks’ time, out into space. We are going to be strapped in and ready for launch about two hours before countdown. Then there’ll be an incredible roar that’ll shake us to the bone and we are going to be subjected to a powerful G force (gravitational acceleration) that will be accelerating us to 28 thousand kilometers per hour. And then, in an instant - silence. And we will be able to unstrap ourselves from our seats, float and peek out of the Dragon windows... This is the moment I am waiting for. A child’s dream come true.
While we will be on our way to the Space Station, the Falcon rocket is going to be returning to its landing site with insane accuracy. They’ve taken us to the giant hangar in which the SpaceX personnel refurbish the rockets after they return. The rocket, as far as I’m concerned, is a kind of advanced aircraft.It’s a 70-meter-long tube, powered by the force of nine enormous engines, each one generating as much power as six F-16 fighter jets at full throttle.
We will be doing our quarantine without our backup crew. Our crew has three backup members undergo together with us all of the training, the courses and the difficult examinations we have to take, so that they will be able to step in should any one of us, for whichever reason, be unable to take part in this tremendous undertaking.
One of them, who is backing up the MLA, is veteran astronaut Peggy Whitson - an eminently experienced astronaut, who has racked up a total of 665 days in space, 10 space walks which have totaled 60 hours outside the Station, has twice commanded the Space Station and has managed the Astronauts’ Office at NASA.
The second, who is the stand-in for Larry, is John Shoffner - a race car driver, extreme sports enthusiast and pilot.
The third backup, who will be backing me up, is my daughter, Dr. Shir Stibbe, a pediatrician at Sheba Medical Center, mother of three of my beloved grandchildren. I am filled with tremendous price by the fact that she has passed all the required qualification tests, has gone through all of the exhausting training and - of course - has learned all of the endless study material. Shir has given the training a nickname - “Superhero School”, where we learn to fly, to go out into space, to survive...
There is no doubt that her presence next to me throughout this long, challenging journey intensifies the experience of preparing for liftoff.Shir arrived at the program curious and inquisitive. At the moment she already understands that if she gets the opportunity, she too will fly. “Are you starting to save up?” Asked Yigal Mosko, and she answered, “I’m starting to dream”. And what is the dream if not the first indispensable step on the journey toward its realization?
Anticipating and looking forward,
Kármán line - The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), an international record-keeping body for aeronautics, defines the Kármán line as the space boundary, at an altitude of 100 km above sea level.