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Inside the Russian Soyuz Spacecraft

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In this episode of NASA: Behind the Scenes, take a tour inside the Russian Soyuz, the vehicle which takes the expedition crews back and forth to the International Space Station. Astronaut Mike Fincke, a veteran of the Soyuz and shuttle, shows off the features of the vehicles and talks about what it's like to be inside.


Thanks for joining us today here in the building nine mock-up facility with us a veteran astronaut Mike Fink who has spent more days in space than any other US astronaut and who has had the privilege of launching twice and landing twice in this vehicle the Russian Soyuz spacecraft Mike's going to take us through a little walk on each of the sections of the Soyuz today before we go.

Inside for a look-see Mike Robb it's great to be here and it's great to get a chance to talk about one of my favorite favorite spacecraft the Soyuz comes in three parts it's a classic spacecraft a capsule based design so in the middle part let's talk about that first that's where we sit in for launch and landing so we call that the crew module and right above it.

We have the habitation module so that when we actually get into space we need a little bit more room so we're not cramped in that little can as we have the habitation module and a third module below is the instrumentation module which has extra things like oxygen and our engines and things like that now just before landing all three of these modules separate and only the part in.

The middle where we're sitting is the one that comes back home but let's take a look inside Mike yeah come on inside Rob this is a mock-up of a Soyuz Model T ma and the a part came in the mid the late 90s early 2000s when we put in this new glass cockpit the neptune panel and so we were sitting down i'm sitting down in the flight engineer spot which is at the left seat and then there is the.

Center seater who is the commander and then you're sitting in the right seat or position which is either another flight engineer flight engineer number two or a space flight participant so you can see on that side there are fewer buttons to push and a fewer things to control so usually the spacecraft is flown with the commander and the flight engineer which more like a co-pilot working together.

And since the set the center seat is is depressed a little bit lower it's harder for the commander to actually push the button so either the uses a stick like this or oftentimes the way that the i flown it is as a flight engineer i push all the buttons i set everything up commander agrees or disagree and then we we execute you can see there's a screen right here that's a periscope that looks.

Out either in front of the vehicle or below us as well as some control sticks here so we can actually manually fly from the center seat so let's say we're at the Baikonur cosmodrome in kazakhstan its launch day the crew has had breakfast at their resident crew quarters you've gone out into the cosmodrome to suit up and now you're at the launch pad how you get inside this.

This efficient vehicle and get settled in for the rest of the countdown the the launch pad that I launched off of twice was yuri gagarin's launch pad how cool is that to have have people from all over the world including Americans launching from Yuri's launch pad so about two and a half hours before launch we arrived by bus already dressed in our spacesuits we climb up the ladder to the.

Gantry take a small elevator up to the tippy top and the rocket doesn't look so big from below but when you're up there at the at the at the tippy top of the rocket looking down it's a big rocket we come in through the living and habitation module and there's a hatch rate of up here that we actually come through so the hatch you see behind us doesn't really exist it's great for.

The mock-up so we send down usually the flight engineer first then over to the flight engineer number two or space flight participant and then this commander comes in last we close the hatch we turn on the panels we turn on the spacecraft make sure all the systems are working to our communications checks and then we sit back and let the ground team do their job the Soyuz booster.

Rocket that the spacecraft is perched on top of is fully fueled ready to go what are some of the things that take place let's say in the final 30 minutes or so before liftoff usually up to that point we have been relaxing if all the contexts went well the pressurization of the capsule our suit checks if that all goes well then we're just sitting down relaxing and sometimes they even put in.

Some some music and it's very amazing to sit there and the steppe of Kazakhstan listening to maybe some American jazz right before a launch so about half an hour though we get we get our head back in the game and we make sure all of our systems are functioning properly do some more context with the ground make sure that they hear us they'll tell they'll give us an update and then by that time.

It's time to go and it's just starting to you know you start you can't believe because up to that point you're you said well I've been training for years ready to go and you can see the little counter to start to go down a little bit so my goodness we're we're it's going to happen and then you hear some a few thumps or bumps outside as the gantry moves and you're standing arrow by.

Yourself and then you can feel the vibration of the engine start to watch and then beauty of it all Eitan half minutes later you're in orbit it's that fast and then my conversely after about six months on orbit it's time to come home at some point back to Kazakhstan walk us through the preparations that you all do when it's time to undock and give us a.

Little glimpse of what that entry is all about we close the hatch between the the if we get back in our spacesuits then we close the hatch to the living habitation module we get back here in the in the crew module the descent module and we're all in our spacesuits again we make sure that that this hatch especially the one between the living habitation module and the and the crew.

Module here is very fully sealed because all of a sudden that hatch it's going to be the one to the outside because as our three compartments break apart so we get ready for undocking to the space station we're in our space suits everything's good and we we watch the undocking it's all automatic we make sure that we're pointing away from this but you know we pull away from the space station make.

Sure we get out of the space station's way and we check out all of our systems to make sure that we can come back home safely again it's always about checking out our systems it's really tricky because we're going 17,500 miles an hour and we're going to go back to zero and we're going to do that by breaking through the air that means you're using the air to slow us down generates a lot.

Of heat our heat shield not just glows it actually melts off it's an ablative heat shield our whole capsule is is coated in it and it's just amazing because once we do our deorbit burn that's really important it takes about three minutes to slow down but once we hit the atmosphere and start to slow down it's just a amazing ride you can look right out the windows and you can.

See the blade of heat shields melting you can see the plasma ball that you're traveling through and you're slowing down and we starts hitting the atmosphere like in Central Africa by the time we reach Central Asia as we travel north and east you know we're you know it's we're slowed down enough that parachutes can pop out and we jump we drift gently to the earth below.

But that parachute deployment is almost like the e-ticket of the riders well that's that's definitely I know some rides and some use Minh parks where people pay money for that because our parachute because we have this hatch here a parachutes actually off to the side so when it first pops out we kind of swing around in a big arc and we haven't had gravity for a long time and.

All of a sudden we're swinging around in a big circle so and that comes right after you know after the the screaming in through the atmosphere and breaking up to pull up to six GS and all of a sudden we're spinning around with the parachute but then the parachute repositions itself and it then becomes a kind of a normal parachute and we slow down and then it's.

A gentle drifting but until then it's pretty exciting until the last meter so the last three feet is when we meet the ground we're going about 20 miles an hour at the time and we hit the hit the earth firmly and and we know that we're back home there are engines that fire right split-second before touchdown almost strangely named soft landing engines but.

We're lying on what would be custom seat liners that have some cushion capability for you right it's a the Russian designers have tried to make it as safe as possible so that we come back come back safely and gently so nobody gets hurt so they do slow us down with our with the retro rockets right in the last meter or so these seats actually right before landing in fact that's what how.

You know that you're getting close to the ground they kind of a position up so they would so that well as soon as we land the shock absorber takes the the bulk of the the impact now once you're down on the ground those of us who have been flying in helicopters Russian helicopters in a racetrack pattern around the landing site waiting for you we will land in sequential fashion and.

Then the process begins to extract the crew take us through that well it's always comforting because on the way down especially under the parachutes we're able to talk to the the pilots of the of the airplanes and the and the helicopters that they know where to find us and that's very comforting to know once we hit the ground that there's going to be someone there to meet us.

So after we hit the ground we actually have a switch on the commander's side here that cuts the risers to the parachute so the wind isn't pulling us around and we sit there and wait carefully and then this hatch which used to go up to another module now opens up to the outside the ground rescue team opens it up and that takes us takes us out of course it's kind of crowded in.

Here so sometimes they have to move some some payload or some of our survival equipment out of the way first and then they pull out the commander and then the flight engineer number two and then of course last but not least me the flight engineer it must be almost a sensory overload after six months in a vacuum environment basically up on the space station the smell of fresh air the look.

Of the grass the smell of the dirt down in Kazakhstan one of those sensations like for you all of those sensations Robert are heightened by our emotional feeling of coming back home and as they say in the movies there's no place like home and you're coming back to earth to come back to gravity all these all these things they're not new to us but we haven't had them in a while so they're.

It's kind of like rediscovering things all over again rediscovering the sense of smell and how beautiful it smells and the outdoors on the steppe how it is - how it is that they hand us an apple right after we land just to just to give us a taste a center of Mother Earth back on earth Mike and we appreciate your time as always and thanks for walking us through a trip on the Soyuz I'm really.

Glad to be able to share this great adventure with all of our viewers out there you're watching NASA TV


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