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about being nervous. The so-called multimillionaire American
businessman who's a research scientist failing an exam!
Garriott: On the space station everybody speaks English, so it
is no big deal. But on the Soyuz all the commands are in Rus-
sian, and all the instruments are labeled in Russian. So you
want to get some fundamental mastery of Russian.
Shuttleworth: Four hours a day of intensive Russian is a little
like brain surgery without anesthesia, but it was worth it. The
faster you could get over that hump, the faster you could really
start to interact.
Simonyi: Learning about the docking, communication, and
reëntry systems was interesting.
Olsen: Sometimes I saw things that were a bit crude. They
don't have the budget NASA has, so a lot of things that they
do, they do by ingenuity.
Shuttleworth: The other day I got a little guided tour of a high-
end racing yacht with carbon fiber walls and floor, computer-
ized gadgetry and winches, stu like that. Someone said, "Wow,
this is just like a spaceship!" I laughed and said, "A spaceship
is a hell of a lot simpler than this."
Simonyi: In the James Bond movies there's Q, who creates
all these fantastic devices. It's not like that at all. Many of the
devices on the spacecraft are almost from Jules Verne!
Shuttleworth: I was in training for a long time. I watched suc-
cessions of NASA astronauts be very dismissive of the Soyuz.
The worst thing I heard someone say was that if you got a
small village together and asked them to design a spaceship,
it would be like the Soyuz.
Garriott: You can look at the original Soyuz, and the same
physical design---same molds, even---appear to have been used
throughout its history. If it's not broken, don't fix it. But any-
thing that has ever gone wrong or failed, they fix. Or if there
is some new technology that comes along that would be of
significant benefit, they change it also. The Soyuz has a glass
[i.e., modern] cockpit, for example.
Shuttleworth: The NASA guys who went through the training
program and actually got to the point where they could be a flight
engineer or a commander, without exception, loved it. They sud-
denly realize that they can fly the damn thing without ground
control, data feeds, and teams and teams of specialists.
Ansari: When it gets close to flight time, they take you to quar-
antine in Baikonur.
Olsen: We spend about 10 days there, so it's a bit boring. They
were always giving you some kind of medical test.
Simonyi: The final checkout is in a doctor's o ce, with a medi-
cal team of three or four doctors. It's the most junior one who
gives you the enema.
Garriott: The thing is to try to make sure you don't need to use
the rest room on board the Soyuz.
All those who decide to go to the International Space Station must
learn Russian and train at Star City, near Moscow, for at least
Ansari: When you go to Star City, it's down to basics, and some-
times not even basics.
Olsen: Star City used to be an air base; it's now a college for
cosmonauts. It's a woodsy setting on a lake, a small village of
about 3,000 people---a very idyllic place.
Garriott: There is an ambiance about the place that doesn't feel
like a traditional American overly well-lit bright and shiny
o ce. It's all a little dimmer and kind of surreal.
Ansari: Everything is on the verge of falling down.
Garriott: Nothing is wrong with old. I have been at NASA dur-
ing some of their downturns and seen it in disrepair, too.
Ansari: The first day I came, there was no hot water. The next
day, there was no hot water. I was going to the gym and taking
showers over there. Finally I went down, and it's like, "Do you
know when the hot water will come back?" They said, "Yeah,
in about a month."
Olsen: The plumbing was a little rusty, so I had to get in and
fix it, but I didn't mind.
Ansari: When you turn on the faucet, brown rusty water comes
out. If you let it run for 10 or 15 minutes, it starts getting clear,
and you can take a decent clean shower.
Olsen: It's kind of a culture shock.
Ansari: It is a military base. It taught me that you don't need a lot
of things to live happily. At home I go to 10 di erent places to
buy just that one product that I'm used to, that one shampoo.
Olsen: Things are real cheap at the store they have on base.
Like, bread is maybe 20 cents U.S.
Ansari: I'm lactose intolerant, so I drink soy milk. But there's
no soy milk over there on the military base.
Olsen: I ate at the cosmonaut cafeteria. Tea, hard-boiled
eggs, and goulash was a typical breakfast, but I rolled with
the punches. I wasn't there to live like an American.
Simonyi: I grew up in Hungary; also, I'm a programmer, so I
eat anything. The food was perfectly good.
Olsen: I grew up during the Cold War. Now all of a sudden I'm
living with the enemy, okay? It's a culture shock.
Simonyi: You run into people like Sergei Krikalyov. He's proba-
bly the all-time most-adapted human to space: 800 days, six
times, he flew.
Olsen: The only English you hear is around the NASA sec-
tion. I'm not going to tell you I'm fluent in Russian. By far that
was the hardest part, learning Russian. Class was 9:00 to 4:00,
including four hours of Russian three days a week. Then, 4:00
to 6:00, weights and all kinds of stu in the gym. Then go home
and study. And every Friday we had exams, oral exams. You can
bet I burned the midnight oil before the exams. Boy, you talk
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