Launch, Minus 18 Hours
Tensions are starting to run high in the laboratories. Launch minus 14 hours is the final deadline for handover of the samples. Everyone is working against the clock. Yet, everything must be done with the utmost care since no step can be done over again. The T cells are loaded in their hardware cassettes. The syringes, marked simply as “activator” and “fixative” for easy identification, are filled and sealed. Everything is clearly color coded and labeled with numbers or letters to eliminate confusion for the astronaut who will perform the final step of the experiment in space. The European Space Agency (ESA) safety manager and the Russian Baikonour science safety officer must inspect each component of the experiment package. All must be cross-referenced and be in accord with the initial protocol agreements. There still seems to be more paperwork to complete as the scientists load the samples into the containers for Soyuz. At least there haven’t been any major glitches in the timeline. All the planned experiments will make it on to the rocket.
We must clean and pack up the entire lab tonight. Launch is tomorrow, September 18th, at 10:08am local time. Four hours later, we are due on chartered plane back to Moscow. There will be time to take a breath then.