Attending Luca’s launch as a member of his friends and family group was truly a unique and exciting experience. It was such an incredible experience that it may be hard for me to translate into words, but I will try while I write about each part of this amazing experience! I was one of 18 people who experienced Luca’s first launch from an entirely unique perspective. From our visits with Luca in quarantine the days prior to the launch to the actual events that led up to the launch, the launch itself and the docking and hatch opening, every part of this experience was incredibly exciting, unique, and somewhat surreal. I also spent 8 days prior to Luca’s launch traveling through Moscow and then Baikonur with this group of 18 people. In essence I was “adopted” as part of the family and that in and of itself was special and made the launch and all aspects of it so much more personal and emotional. I hope I can convey this experience and the emotions that came with it through my writing.
The first “official” launch event we attended on the evening of May 28, 2013 was the astronauts leaving quarantine at the Cosmonaut Hotel to head to the Cosmodrome for suiting up and launch preparations.
From the moment Karen, Fyodor and Luca walked out, the atmosphere was like a party. You might imagine it would be somber as this was one of the last times we would see them in the next six months, but it was instead a celebration of this long awaited moment. Remember, these astronauts had been training for two years for this moment. They were embarking on the journey of their lives! Russian rock music was playing, and the astronauts smiled and waved to the crowd.
The day before the walkout, when we were visiting with Luca through the quarantine glass, he said that this wasn’t goodbye, for he would see us at the walkout. He had promised that he would try to make eye contact with each of us, which he attempted to do, as you can see him pointing to specific people, members of our group, in the crowds. It was beyond exciting to have him recognize me in the group and is something I will never forget. If you listen closely to the video you can hear singing in Italian – this was our group of Luca’s family and friends. We sang the old Italian song “Volare” which was so appropriate given Luca’s mission is also named Volare, which means “to fly” in Italian. This was Luca’s very first mission to space and the excitement of his family and friends, and of course his very own smile, show just how important this moment was. Luca’s dream was coming true and I got to watch him get there.
Stay tuned for more photos and videos as I continue to share the events of the launch, which include the astronauts’ second walk out in their Sokul suits as they leave for the Soyuz space craft, the launch, the docking, the final hatch opening and family greetings.