Guy Laliberte’s Poetic Social Mission
PART 4: “From Training to Reality”


Six years ago, on September 30, 2009, a civilian became a spaceflight participant aboard Soyuz TMA-16, a manned flight from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Joining two members of the Expedition 21 crew – Russian cosmonaut Maksim Surayev (Commander, from the Russian Federal Space Agency, FSA) and NASA Astronaut Jeffery Williams (Flight Engineer) – was Guy Laliberté, who paid approximately $35 million USD for his seat through the American firm Space Adventures, becoming the first Canadian space tourist in the process. Besides fulfilling a life-long dream, Laliberté’s spaceflight was dedicated to raising awareness on water issues facing humankind on planet Earth, making his spaceflight the first – in his words – “poetic social mission” in space. And much of this experience was captured on film and recently spun into a feature-length documentary entitled TOUCH THE SKY. While the documentary is a compelling visual look into the experience, the adventure was also captured by Laliberté himself in the form of an online journal.

At the time these events were originally taking place, we here at Fascination were more concerned with the happenings here on Earth – with BELIEVE, ZAIA, ZED, OVO, VIVA ELVIS, and BANANA SHPEEL – so we didn’t give much thought to this endeavor. However, thanks to the recently discovered documentary (the aforementioned TOUCH THE SKY), we recently re-discovered a text-copy of this journal in our archives, which allows us to explore this extraordinary time in Cirque du Soleil’s history in more detail. Thus in this series we’ll be taking a look back at Guy’s Poetic Social Mission through his eyes, from the journal, in monthly installments, taking you through the initial steps Guy undertook all the way through to the launch and landing. In Part 1, “The Countdown Begins” we listened as Guy took us through his first steps. In Part 2, “Training Kicks Up a Notch”, Guy got settled in, and passed a few essential tests. In Part 3, “Getting My Hands Dirty”, Guy gets down into the nuts and bolts of his training, and now we continue with him getting a bit more hands on with the actual equipment he’ll be flying in, covering the month of August 2009.


POST 36 | DAY 126 – August 01, 2009

After my week in Houston and the one I just spent in Star City, I really feel like I’ve entered the transition phase, going from theory to reality. To prepare myself well for this adventure and help me adapt psychologically and physiologically to life in space, I’ve been meeting with psychologists and doctors.

I also now know more about what everyone seemed so eager to find out about: how the water supply system and the toilets work! Next week, I should be applying what I learned!

As for the poem, it’s almost finished and I’m quite pleased with it. We had productive work sessions and everyone in the team finds the result inspiring. I can’t wait to tell you all about it, which should be during our next press conference in a few weeks.

Time is whizzing by, and the launch date is fast approaching. I’m busy from morning to night, since each time I finish one project, another one pops up, so the “to-do” pile never seems to go down! The good thing about all this activity is that I’m never bored! The bad thing is that I’m not getting enough sleep, at least, not as much as I’d like. 🙁

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POST 37 | DAY 128 – August 03, 2009

And so, to recap, I left for Ibiza on Friday evening without my film crew. (Yes, I fled from my entourage!) I saw friends, my two youngest kids and my love. It was our last chance for a romantic weekend before the launch. It was just the little family and I, no nanny. We went sailing and swimming, played backgammon, watched a few movies with the kids. Actually, both parents dozed off during one of the films. It makes you wonder just who was babysitting who!

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POST 38 | DAY 130 August 05, 2009

A big week of work awaited us on our return to Star City. I took a deep breath and plunged, ready to inject the required dose of humour in our next 2 days of training, part 2 of last week’s training.

Tuesday morning, we went to Energia, a company involved in various projects. For example, Energia is responsible for approving the payload material and developing the Russian modules at the ISS. The purpose of our visit was to go over the equipment that we’ll be taking along with us into space.

My time on the rotating chair hasn’t improved 🙁 But I have to say that I had woken up early that morning and hadn’t eaten – obviously not a brilliant idea!

When I arrived at the airport late Tuesday afternoon for my departure to Montreal, a little blond-haired stray dog gave me a generous dose of affection by laying down on my feet. My heart melted right then and there, and I had to adopt him on the spot! My plan is to take him along with me during my next stay in Ibiza, so off he went with my driver to Star City to be examined and cared for. Claudia and I had been talking lately about adopting another dog, but I guess he found us instead! I have a feeling though that he’s on his way to becoming a Canadian, and not a Spanish, Hound —my dog Jack will be so pleased! My three oldest kids and I looked for a name and our choice was unanimous: SOYUZ!

* * *

POST 39 | DAY 131 – August 06, 2009

It felt very odd to be alone at home in Montreal. It was just too quiet…

I got up early on Wednesday morning to do my workout, followed by a soothing and VERY enjoyable massage. I was now ready to take on the next 5 hectic days!

Let’s start with the first meeting: the presentation of the vaudeville show in Chicago. The name is now official, but we won’t tell you yet! The clown acts made me laugh and I was impressed with the dancers. I think this production shows great promise. It’s very timely, too: I find we all need to laugh and unwind a bit more today, and I’m sure it’ll do the trick!

I then joined my CityCenter and CKX partners as well as Priscilla Presley for an artistic performance (music, execution, costumes, etc.) in order to see the Elvis show as a whole in Montreal before it leaves for Las Vegas.

The whole team is thrilled about this project that immerses us in the world of a performer who was one of the best, if not THE best! I’m very satisfied with the result: these are high-calibre artists and there’s no doubt in my mind that the production will be outstanding.

I was also very pleased to see the level of commitment of the artists, the creative and production teams, etc. This is teamwork at its finest. The day ended with a cocktail at Le Latini, a great Italian restaurant in downtown Montreal, where I popped in after sorting out some paperwork. I left early for home—and a nice big well-deserved sleep!

* * *

POST 40 | DAY 133 – August 08, 2009

I started work with my osteopath to correct some of the consequences of my training and ease some bones back into place! They no longer cracked when I arrived at the meeting with my space project gang! 😉 I was happy to see they were still as hard-working, as committed and as motivated as ever.

My day in Montreal ended with a good 3 hours in the dentist’s chair to replace a tooth that broke during one of my (intense!) training sessions, have a filling done and get my teeth cleaned. My dazzling smile is now ready to compete with the stars when I’ll be up there in space!

I then hopped on a plane for Québec City (my native town) with my 3 eldest kids to see OVO, where my parents and all my relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins) had gathered. An almost perfect family portrait—only my love, my brother Jean and my 2 youngest were missing!

The timing was perfect, since I was able to see my whole family before my departure. A family who watched me grow, took care of me and showed me the importance of strong family bonds. A festive and tightly knit family. I was very moved to see them all and spent a wonderful evening with them.

I spent the night at Château Frontenac in Old Québec with my 3 eldest who just couldn’t keep still! A very precious moment given this was my last weekend with them before my departure.

The next day, we visited the houses in which my parents had lived as kids (Limoilou and St-Sauveur). It felt odd to see the alleyways where I had played and to return for a short moment to my childhood days. The little boy in me was very touched to come face to face with himself… and that little boy is still alive and kicking!

We stopped in a boutique, Gagné & Frères, that is still in business after 100 years, and where my grandfather, my father and I bought our accordions. In the window, I saw an accordion that was made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the store. I just couldn’t resist: I bought it!
And while we were there, my father and I played a bit of music in the store. My kids had a good time watching and listening to us! It was a beautiful moment, filled with memories.

I then went for a nice long walk in the streets of Old Québec with the kids and showed them the apartment in which I had lived. Sharing all these moments with them was so much fun.

After a family dinner at Charbon Steakhouse, we went off to see Les Chemins invisibles, a free urban street show that takes place in the Saint-Roch district of Québec City. There was quite a crowd and it was great to see all these spectators marvel at the stunts of the show’s emerging artists. After an emotion-filled day, we were pretty tired, but this didn’t keep us from truly enjoying the show.

* * *

POST 41 | DAY 134 – August 09, 2009

The next day, I left for Baie-Saint-Paul to participate in L’Éveil du géant, an event organized by the city and my ex-partner Daniel Gauthier and his spouse, my friend Hélène Dufresne. Baie-Saint-Paul is where it all started for Cirque du Soleil, so the purpose of this event was to highlight the contribution of the creators and artists of the Échassiers de la Baie and the Fête foraine, i.e., the origins of Cirque. What deserves to be mentioned here is that, even though the shows we put on in those first years were not considered very conventional, Baie-Saint-Paul welcomed us with open arms. And that’s something I’ll never forget. On my way there, I stopped at the Balcon Vert youth hostel with my kids and my friend Gilles Ste-Croix. I was amazed and thrilled to discover that some of the staff was still there after 30 years! The Balcon Vert is where I met some of the most significant people in my life, such as Gilles, so I absolutely had to include it in my weekend pilgrimage.

* * *

POST 42 | DAY 135 – August 10, 2009

I promised these boys (Marc Duchesne and Martin Dufour) that I would mention them in my blog. They were part of a little group of musicians who played during the unveiling of L’Équilibre précaire by artist Danielle April at the Parc du Citoyen in Baie-Saint-Paul. After the sculpture L’Équilibre précaire by artist Danielle April was unveiled at the Parc du Citoyen, we headed towards the big top to meet old colleagues. It was filled with the sounds of long-lost friends greeting each other. Francine Léonard (aka Dolores) and Serge Roy were very funny as MCs, and the artists who performed that night dazzled us and warmed our hearts. It was an unforgettable evening. I saw people I had lost touch with so many years ago. My heart was filled with all sorts of emotions and I headed back to my room with a smile on my lips and images and memories dancing in my head.

* * *

POST 43 | DAY 136 – August 11, 2009

On Sunday morning, I treated myself to a very relaxing massage and said goodbye to my parents and friends before leaving for Moscow. A pretty difficult moment. I still had a lump in my throat sitting on the plane. I’m very thankful for all these amazing moments I’ve just lived, but I now feel a growing need to stay still for a little while. The upcoming weekend is the last one I have left to unwind a bit and then, I’ll have to remain in Russia. Time is going by so fast!

* * *

POST 44 | DAY 137 August 12, 2009

I returned from Québec City on Monday feeling quite tired. Of course, the long flight didn’t help much. I haven’t been able to sleep a whole lot and can’t find the time to get my feet back on the ground (my head is still in the clouds?or in space!). The week ahead is an important one though, with other medical tests. We also continued to study the communications systems and conduct simulations. I was all happy to see that there was no vestibular training planned for me this week, but at noon on Monday, I learned with dismay that I did have one to do. ? The good news though is that I managed to beat my record by 5 minutes! I then did a few laps in the pool to recharge my batteries. Let’s just say the ice-cold water gave me the boost I needed! Later on, I went back to my room to clean up my e-mails and put my paperwork in order but quickly tired of this, so I decided instead to watch the 24 series, to which I have always been addicted. In my case, the “24 hours” lasted 24 minutes that day: by then, I had already dozed off and was sleeping like a log!

* * *

POST 45 | DAY 139 – August 13, 2009

I underwent some more medical tests: some new ones and others that were similar to those I had already passed.

We also continued learning more about the life support system, including a demonstration on how to use the toilet aboard the ISS and a fine sampling of food for astronauts! Needless to say, we had a good laugh!

Later on, during one of the meetings I had in the evening, we came to an agreement on which cameras I’ll be using.

The next morning was also busy with medical testing. My crew was there, too, and none of us escaped a mighty thorough inspection! Eyes, teeth, blood sampling, blood pressure… here we go again! On a positive note, I found the atmosphere much more relaxed than the first times.

Late afternoon, my doctor informed me that for next week’s visit of the GMK (Russia’s Main Medical Commission), I’ll need to do 10 minutes of vestibular training. WAIL!!! So we’re back to testing drugs once more. They injected a very strong sedative in my backside and 2 minutes later, I was using the walls to keep me upright as I staggered to a chair in the hall. I took a 45-minute break sitting still in that chair, absolutely unable to head for my workout.

And guess what? It worked! Thanks to a powerful drug and intensive positive image visualization, I was able to get through the full 10 minutes of vestibular training! After this phenomenal feat, however, the great Olympic athlete that I am passed out in bed and completely skipped lunchtime!

* * *

POST 46 | DAY 141 – August 15, 2009

I headed for my simulation preparation with Max, my captain. This would be our first simulation together. I was so tired, though, that I kept nodding off, looking pretty sheepish at the other end of the table. My interpreter was translating the course content for me, but I couldn’t even hear what he was saying. I was simply ready to drop! And so, I was given a doctor’s permission, just like in school, and didn’t have to play hooky. 🙂 I simply went to bed.

During the evening, another episode of 24 didn’t survive more than 24 minutes—again! I have the feeling I’ll eventually have to rename it 24 Days or 24 Weeks!

On the other hand, and even though I could only sleep on one side because of the injection I had received earlier on, I slept that night like never before since my arrival in Russia.

When I awoke the next day, all my senses were wide awake. In the morning, I had a centrifuge test, during which my arrival/departure profile was prepared, and everything went well. Instead of more vestibular training, I was very willing to do 10 centrifuge tests, but they didn’t accept my offer. Go figure!

Good news! I won’t have any more vestibular training to do before my departure for Baikonur. I’ll drink to that!
As for my simulation with Max, was it the power of my subconscious that took in all the information it received the day before, despite my almost unconscious state? Whatever the reason, the fact remains that everything went amazingly well!

* * *

POST 47 | DAY 143 – August 17, 2009

At the end of the day, I left for Ibiza, where I would spend my last weekend before my departure for Baikonur. By this time, SOYUZ, all nice and clean, had been issued his little passport so he was ready to come along with me and be introduced to the family. Jack, my other dog, looked a little puzzled at first, but it didn’t take long for the two of them to start playing together and become good buddies!

Lots of friends were there to greet me and I was really happy to see them. They had come to celebrate my birthday a bit ahead of time (since it falls on THE BIG DAY and I’ll be in Russia). We had dinner and spent a wonderful evening together.

Saturday, I woke up early and headed for the pool to do a few laps and swim with the kids. With my friends, we threw a Cool Margarita Pool Party. We laughed, went for a swim and chatted. At sunset, I was treated to a fire show, a birthday present I truly enjoyed.

We returned home for a BBQ and had some good discussions throughout the evening. At midnight, “Dad” went to bed while everyone else stayed up, even the kids! Could this be a side effect of the sedative I took? The result of too many Margaritas? Or am I simply losing the habit of partying?

Of course, I was the first one up on Sunday so I did some more laps in the pool. It’s such a great way to start the day. In the evening, I treated myself to a good homemade spaghetti, admired a magnificent sunset and, with a heavy heart, said goodbye to the whole gang: “I’ll see you all soon, when I get back!”

* * *

POST 48 | DAY 144 – August 18, 2009

We kicked off the week on a grey note: the clouds and cold weather are back in Moscow, along with another medical exam with various tests. We studied the Life Support System more in depth, including the oxygen mask, signals, extinguishers, emergency evacuation procedures aboard the ISS, and so on. I had my altitude chamber test at 10,000 metres as well as other medical exams. I didn’t reach the top of Mount Everest, but I did reach my own personal heights! Like always on Mondays, my evening was quite busy. There’s the Mission Log to update and pictures to choose for the Poetic Social Mission, e-mails received over the weekend to read and answer… so you can see that I don’t get a whole lot of sleep!

* * *

POST 49 | DAY 146 – August 20, 2009

As if it wasn’t enough to bend my body like a contortionist in my spacesuit last week, I had to put it on again for another 2 hours, this time squeezed into a little box at an altitude of 30,000 metres! The purpose of this relaxing experiment was to test my endurance… I just hope they won’t ask me to wear my spacesuit for a whole night in my little bed! We also did quite a lot of preparedness simulations. Everything went well and I was even able to sneak in a power nap once again! Let’s just say these little naps help me regain a few hours of sleep here and there. Along with other medical exams, I was tested on the Life Support System simulation. These exams were followed by a second, and equally important, test from the GMK, Russia’s Main Medical Commission. While the first GMK test cleared us for training, this one will give us the go-ahead to fly. So here we were, Max, Barbara, the back-up captain and I, going from one office to the next, meeting with one doctor after another. We were all smiles when we received confirmation that we were medically fit to fly. What a relief! There was a very important exam coming up on Friday. Since I still wanted some stars in my notebook, I studied all night!

* * *

POST 50 | DAY 148 – August 22, 2009

I had absolutely no time to work out this week, so in order to squeeze a bit of exercise in the day, I had to steal a few minutes at lunchtime or get up really early. I guess I’ve become addicted! After the exam, we got some good work done. As soon as the test was over, we launched into emergency procedures and did another thorough review of all the ISS systems. The day ended with a hands-on video training session using the equipment I’ll be taking up with me to make videos for my Mission Log and the Poetic Social Mission. I should be a real pro in no time! Training with the team starts next week and I can’t wait! We’ll be testing and putting into practice everything we’ve learned in the last few weeks.

* * *

POST 51 | DAY 150 – August 24, 2009

I spent the weekend in Moscow and, like all my other times there, the weather wasn’t that great. So I stayed at the hotel and treated myself to life’s little pleasures: good food, a few massages, a few workouts, some movies, putting my paperwork in order… But my head was so filled to the brim with everything I learned in the last days that I went to bed late. I just couldn’t fall asleep. On Sunday, I simply shut off my phone, something I’ve never done since the beginning of my training. Well okay, I did answer, but only when my partner or Renée-Claude called… and, in her case, it was just to get a phone number from me! The film crew was with me and I had to throw them out of my room—they just wouldn’t leave otherwise! But can you blame them? They’re so enthusiastic about the Poetic Social Mission. 😉 And to think I could have done all this in Star City! But it did me good to take it easy for an entire day (well, almost). The sun finally appeared for a brief 15 minutes late Sunday afternoon. Will I one day enjoy a cloudless weekend in Moscow? To be continued… next week!

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POST 52 | DAY 151 – August 25, 2009

Since I felt quite rested after my weekend, I had planned to leave Moscow at 7:00 a.m. for the obvious reason: that’s when Starbucks opens! When I arrived there, you can imagine my surprise to find out they had changed their opening hours! The look of utter despair on my face must have moved the staff since they accepted to open at 7:20. So off I went with a smile on my face and a Frappucino in hand, ready for a 1-hour drive to Star City. I was also cheered up by the prospect of training with my crew all week. We started with consultations on topics I had already touched on but need to master well, such as making a diagnosis, identifying the medication on board the ISS, understanding how the belt (the one that controls blood circulation) works and, of course, learning to wash oneself… When we perform simulations, we need to prepare them by consulting each other beforehand on various matters (e.g., the duties to carry out). We had our first preparation Monday afternoon, and everyone was in a good mood.

* * *

POST 53 | DAY 153 – August 26, 2009

Our official photo session took place this morning but, happily, we weren’t asked to wear a tie over our flight suit. Phew! Max was there with his wife and two kids, Jeff was with his wife, and I was, well… without my love. 🙁 We’ll have to do some Photoshop later on! I know that I had to be a good sport for these official photos, but I still wanted to get them involved in my madness: my objective was to let them take a picture of the good citizen… and of the artist. I took some clown noses out of my goody bag and we had lots of fun posing for more official photos, version no. 2 this time! It really touched me that my 2 partners played along with me. And the children—who also put on clown noses, of course!—had a good laugh.

* * *

POST 54 | DAY 154 – August 28, 2009

Our work plan in hand, we started the simulation exercise: a fire in the ISS. Our task was to conduct an emergency evacuation and return to our Soyuz. Among other things, this simulation involved putting on our suit and oxygen mask, so my 6th baby (the green one, remember?) served me well!

According to my partners, this is one of the most difficult exercises. And I have to agree, since what started out in a cool, calm and collected fashion ended in sheer exhaustion, with sweat pouring down our faces! This fire drill really helped me apply techniques that I hadn’t yet put to the test. I made a few beginner’s mistakes but gained precious experience along the way. There are two important lessons here: first, in an emergency situation (involving fire, in this case), “Roll yourself on the floor” is not the kind of advice we want to follow! Second, it’s important for us to remain calm since, with all the equipment we carry, it doesn’t take long to either run out of energy OR breath AND everything becomes heavy AND our masks fog up. It was such a great experience!

That night, I had a series of interviews with a Québec journalist who came to pay me a little visit. A bit far to come for an interview, don’t you think?

* * *

POST 55 | DAY 155 – August 29, 2009

I had an exam on several topics we studied last week concerning the design and layout of the ISS. I feel like an aspiring young space architect!

At lunchtime, I slipped away to do my workout. Once you get into the habit, it’s hard to stop.

We had an exercise to carry out while wearing our flightsuits but my 2 partners did most of the work. It’s reassuring to see how well they know what to do and how well trained they are in the sequence of steps to take. In a nutshell, the exercise went smoothly.

I was interviewed by a journalist from AFP (Agence France-Presse). I have to say, the official photos were taken at just the right time!

Barbara and I also went to Energia, where we were shown how to pack our equipment. We also went over the functioning of the photo and video cameras and learned how to use SIGMA, an application that lets you capture all GPS points you wish to photograph from up above. (And no, I won’t be photographing all Starbucks store locations around the world!)

Then, we took (and passed!) our exam on the on-orbit health maintenance system. I promise to do my best to be a credit to the medical profession! 😉

During another exercise, while we had our spacesuits on, they caused a leak in mine but I reacted quickly and everything went well. I had planned on taking it easy after this little “deliberate” incident, but found myself driving in the rain through traffic instead, trying to get to Moscow to pick up my Kasakh visa. I had made an appointment, but still had to wait 90 minutes once I got there. The good news is I can now check this off my to-do list, since I now have my visa in hand for my return to Earth!

* * *

POST 56 | DAY 155 – August 29, 2009

I spent the weekend in Moscow with my good friend Stéphane Francisci from Paris. We had dinner at Mario, in my opinion the top Italian restaurant in Moscow. If ever you’re in the city one day, I recommend that you try it out!

Our evening at the Pacha club (where we were very well received by the manager) was cut short though. After boldly attacking the vodka, Stéphane felt the vapours quickly go to this head. Let’s just say the effects of his jet lag were quite volcanic—or should I say “vodkanic”?! And so, we were back at the hotel a bit earlier than expected…

Luckily, a massage at the hotel’s spa helped us relax and the Russian banya helped melt all those nasty toxins away. Welcome to the Russian version of a detox, Stéphane! Nothing like a good whipping after sweating it out! It’s always quite amusing to see the expression on someone’s face after trying out this unusual experience for the first time. It’s really a form of shock treatment! Respecting tradition, the banya is followed by a good Armenian meal right on sight (including shashliks—yummy!) and some good beer. We then went to a supperclub to meet some friends but we were so exhausted, we could barely keep our eyes open!

I enjoyed my first day of sun in Moscow the following day and just couldn’t believe it! We made the most of it by playing tourist, walking around the city for hours and buying souvenirs. And we watched the Grand Prix on television—a must-see!

We ended the day with a flourish, in my favourite restaurant: Nobu. Delicious!

* * *

POST 57 | DAY 156 – August 30, 2009

The celebrations for my 50th birthday have officially started and it was very pleasant to start my 50th year in the company of a good friend. Life is beautiful… so I’ve chosen PLEASURE as my favourite word this year, since this is how I intend to live this stage in my life.

True to my promise to myself, I took a real break last weekend. Part of my team was in Kiev, also playing tourist. It always does a lot of good to take a little pause and forget about everything for a while… and not trip on camera cables or wear a hidden microphone for the boom operator!

I had a nice family get-together via Skype for my young son, who was celebrating his birthday. I felt heavy-hearted for not being physically present, but I was very much so in spirit.

I’ve started to feel a true adrenalin rush. The countdown began on Sunday and lift-off is now in 30 days. I’m feeling it, I’m living it and I’m so excited!

Finally, I’d like to apologize for the delay in sending you my mission log this week, but the press conference kept me very busy. See you next week then!

* * *

POST 58 | DAY 157 – August 31, 2009

Geneviève, my coordinator, joined me at 7:15 a.m. at the hotel, where we were meeting our lift to Star City. Of course, at 7:30 on the dot, I made my usual pit stop at Starbucks and left for Star City with happy thoughts of my weekend in Moscow.
Monday mostly involved training preparations with my crew. I also skipped my Russian course to work out at the gym and go swimming!

It hit me all of a sudden that, as off yesterday, I only have one month left before lift-off, which means that it’s now a question of weeks—and not months—before the big day. This thought gave me butterflies in my stomach and quite an adrenalin rush!

When I swim, I usually have to stop after each 2 or 3 laps because water seeps into my goggles. Was this accidental or only due to the fact that I hadn’t yet found the right technique for putting them on? Whatever the reason, my goggles fit tightly that day and I was able to do some 50 laps non-stop, which amounts to more than 1 kilometre! I was in a sort of trance, totally absorbed with going over everything I had learned and the various sensations I had recently experienced.

This was the first time I truly felt I was back in shape. Though I haven’t been preparing myself physically for my mission in space for a very long time, this 1-kilometre swim confirmed to me that my fitness program is working well.

In short, this moment in the pool made me happy.

In the afternoon, I had to return to the Mission Control Center (MCC) in Moscow with Max, Jeff and the backup crew, among others, to meet each group in charge of our flight program, e.g., communications, the on-board computer system and all other elements that are linked to the interface between the control center and the ISS. We also had a meeting with high-ranking officials of the MCC involved in the mission.

For the most part, Max and Jeff were the ones who actively participated since they’re leaving on a 6-month mission. I mostly listened and found all of it very interesting.

We drove back to Star City under the sun (yes!). In fact, my Russian friends are surprised by the current temperatures, since it’s almost like summer all over again. The forecast is sunny and warm—all week!

Monday evening was devoted as usual to writing my log mission and then reviewing material for Wednesday’s press conference.

# # #


Next month we’ll continue with “T-30 Days and Counting! (September 2009, Pt 1), “Departure for Baikonur” (September 2009, Pt 2), “Moving Stars and Earth for Water” (On Orbit), and finishing up with “Back on Earth – Mission Success!”

Stay tuned!