NASA astronauts training in Russia
“Instructors for all lectures were excellent. Practical sessions and simulations were excellent. Getting to experience pressure changes while operating hatches at Chakolovsky was particularly interesting. RTII support was excellent. All of the interpreters were terrific - they did a great job and they are a pleasure to work with. I enjoyed working with Anastasia for Russian Language instruction. She does a great job of tailoring the vocabulary and grammar to topics I am studying at the time. The Star City Doc provided terrific support. The schedule support was great – thanks! DOR staff were terrific. Thank you for the great support – transportation, cottage and grounds, scheduling and training. You make life here a joy! Overall this was an excellent trip. I look forward to seeing you all in October!”
“The look-ahead schedule which I received in Houston was accurate, and there was no issue. It really helped to study in advance. No issue for the scheduling. It was a great training! All instructors are knowledgeable, and they have good teaching skills. I really enjoyed training, and I have learned a lot! Interpreters and English manuals are really usefull to learn new systems. About 5 months from now, I need to decide allocation for my bonus food and my clothing. I would like to have a Russian food and clothing try out session, before the decision. I am looking forward to taking the next training session in Oct!”
“The training has been terrific. I have no recommendations as everything I did over the past 5 weeks was top notch! See You In April!”
“All of our GCTC instructors have been very knowledgeable and motivated. The KSOZh instructors were especially good. Same thing goes for our translators. Irina really stood out as a good one, but we had Natasha and Alexei for many classes and they were great too. Having classes with two students is tough for them because we each need different things translated, but they worked well with us. My Russian Instructor was outstanding- please continue to schedule me with him. DOR staff was great in all areas- cottages, scheduling, books, etc. Having bikes was very helpful, that lets us get too and from class and saves valuable time, thanks for getting those for us.”
All these comments above are real inputs of NASA/USOS astronauts in Russia. And there are reasons for that. They all live in Star City while having training sessions at Russian Cosmonaut training base. Daily schedule is pretty simple and straightforward but tough some times: two 4-hour blocks of classes every day from 9am to 6pm with 1-hour break for lunch. Russian cosmonaut training base is located just within 10-minute walk from the place where NASA/USOS astronauts stay in Star City. Duration of training session could vary from 1 week to 5 weeks. Content of weekly classes could be different. Physical training and Russian language classes are scheduled two times a week. Theoretical preparation comes first before practical sessions begin. Sometimes theoretical classes are combined with hands-on sessions to enhance understanding of how systems work. Russian training instructors take into account comments and inputs, remarks of NASA astronauts in Russia after each training session and, if a problem is repeated, adjust training approach accordingly. Each training flow, be it a Russian Soyuz spaceship Communication system or Russian Segment of ISS Motion Control system ends up with an exam or pass/fail test. Russian examination is an event where a trainee is verbally asked questions on the system operation, control, troubleshooting, malfunctioning, etc, knowledge of which is being evaluated by Russian instructors and experts. NASA astronauts say training process in Russia is a little different to what they have at Johnson Space Center. Three to seven NASA astronauts stay in Star City in training on a regular basis in all seasons. Surrounding Cosmonaut training base woods and fresh air make NASA astronauts’ stay comfortable and a big pleasure.
Besides regular theoretical sessions, there is more fun to do. Most of all NASA astronauts like when training phase come closer to real control of the Russian spaceship as a part of crew. Three crewmembers fitted into the Descent capsule (crew location during lift-off and landing) of the Russian Soyuz vehicle, begin to perform their autonomous, rendezvous, approach profiles, as well as emergency descent or early de-orbit of the Soyuz capsule, manual approach and docking – activities like these are more interesting for people addicted to challenges, controlled challenges.
During 2-year training before launch to space, NASA astronauts along with their Russian cosmonauts undergo water survival training (practicing to escape Soyuz descent capsule if landed into the water), wilderness survival training (occurs during winter timeframe practicing in making fire, shelter, find food, provide medical help, call for rescue, sleep at night); perform fit check of their made-in-Russia outfits: personal survival gear and – the most important – “Sokol” spacesuit. NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts stay in the spacesuit from the lift off up to docking to the International Space Station. The space suit has been a rescue mean for crewmembers if Russian spaceship becomes depressurized at any phases of flight. The suit automatically creates its own pressure and becomes pressurized saving crewmembers’ life.
NASA astronauts as well as Russian cosmonauts also participate in their seat liner molding. Custom made spaceship seats make descent capsule touchdown safe and comfortable. Also, during training sessions in Russia, there is an opportunity in operating station modules’ inner hatches inside pressurized chamber – getting to know how these types of operations work on orbit.
Russian spaceship descent capsule control during re-entry. There are bunch of practical classes like this one. You have to be able to control descent capsule under g-load during atmosphere re-entry. No matter the piece of metal steeply drops down, you have to control it. Sometimes, when Soyuz spaceship automatics get failed or mechanical malfunctions, Soyuz descent capsule falls down to Erath more steeply and rapidly with two times increased g-load – 8g. Unforgettable feelings.