YOUR STAY IN SPACE
Imagine enjoying seven to eleven days with an unobstructed view of the world! Your spectacular view includes the glorious blue of the world’s seas, lakes and rivers; the majestic mountains and fields.
City lights will twinkle below you, while stars and planets wink at you from above.
Your house in the sky is made up of several modules, including private sleeping and bathing quarters; dining and living areas; and docking stations for the Soyuz, the Russian supply ship Progress, the European ATV and the Japanese HTV, Progress. It could be that also some "private visitors" are docked at the station as SpaceX's "Dragon" capsule. Every module is spacious and comfortable. Extras include state-of-the-art computers and refrigerators, an exercise bike, solar powered water tanks, and an entertainment system.
Keep track of your location on overhead screens with a map of the world; your trek through the stars is tracked with a luminous line allowing you to chart your journey. It doesn't require a degree in rocket science to understand, as everything is clearly displayed in laymen's terms. The onboard computers can even predict your future locations.
If you remember your geography, you'll enjoy identifying the land masses below you. Finding the Eighty-Mile Beach in west Australia is easy, as well as making out the trail of muddy, brown Amazon as it snakes its way through the jungle. Snowy mountain tops glisten below, as do the well-lit cities of the United States, Europe and Japan. Deserts stretch before you, and you can follow the coastlines as they weave a complex tapestry of patterns between the land and the vast oceans.
Flying over Indonesia at sundown, you can make out gigantic tropical storm clouds which tower above the land below, throwing 300-mile shadows across the earth. Then, darkness falls, dense and heavy around you, and billions and billions of stars light your path through the heavens. You will never look to the sky the same way again!
The darkness passes, lasting only about 50 minutes, as you circle the earth once every 90 minutes. Then, you experience forty minutes of bright sunlight and spectacular views. Have you noticed the unearthly quietness? There is the quiet hum of the ventilating fans and the machines at work around you, but other than that, there is nothing; the quiet calm of space with the bustling Earth below you.
Tired? Sleeping in space presents a unique situation. Some of the occupants of your space habitat prefer to sleep inverted, where the circulation of air is better near the bottom of the module, to avoid the possible headaches due to the build up of carbon dioxide. You may find yourself wondering where, exactly, the bottom is, but rest assured, you will find that you can get a good night's sleep and awake refreshed for a new day of space exploration!
THE JOURNEY HOME
When it is time to depart, the crew you flew up with will exchange residences with the crew that you met when you arrived at the space station. The crew that has been living in the modules for the past 180 days will accompany you home, while the crew you flew up with will remain behind to carry on the functions and experiments started by the crews before them. Your new flight companions are anxious to return to Earth, while you might feel that your stay was a short one: a brief period where you made history as one of the few tourists to experience this rare glimpse of the universe, first hand!
You have had an incredible journey, an experience which created memories that will last you more than a lifetime. You take a last look around and then it is time to say "Doswedanja. Goodbye. Auf Wiedersehen."
The voyage home is nothing less than a rollercoaster ride through the many layers of the atmosphere! Strapped into your bowl-shaped seat, you're zooming along at an amazing speed, Mach 25 - 8,507.25 m/s! At first, you can see out of the window, and it looks as if your ship is melting! Not to worry, it's just the outer shield, which turns to liquid metal as it burns off in the heat caused by friction upon reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. Within minutes, your view is completely obstructed as the specially designed glass in the windows glow red from the heat!
Finally, you've broken the realms of light and speed, and you're back in your home atmosphere. The ship cools down and slows, and the first of two parachutes opens to stabilise the capsule and to stop the rotating motion. Then, the second, larger parachute opens and the capsule appears to brake suddenly. You're gliding down to a safe, soft landing. You're home, safe and sound.
Radio traffic begins as your commander is working with the ground crew to determine your exact coordinates for pick-up. Depending on the position in which you've landed, you may be able to see out the window to witness the approach of the amphibious recovery vehicles and the giant MI-8 helicopters that have come to take you back to land. The capsule is righted so that you're now vertical, and it will be possible for you to climb out.
The bright light from the open hatch of the Soyuz TMA-M capsule shines on you. You free yourself from the safety restraints, and you're pulled upwards through the hatch.
Progress may seem slow, but at this time it is necessary to take great care to avoid injury. Your travelling companions have been in space for 180 days, and they need time to adjust because their muscles and circulatory systems need time to readjust to gravity. You, as well, may experience some weakness and a feeling of heaviness, but rest assured that you will be well cared for and back on your feet in no time!
You breathe in fresh air, the first time since your departure nine days ago. The sun shines on you, and it seems so bright! Everything around you, the water, the sun, the air, is miraculous! You are home from one of the most fantastic voyages every to be made by man. From now on, you will never look at the sky the same again, for you have journeyed into the heavens and back, and perhaps all you can think is:
"When do I get to go again?"