Delivering SSTV System to Moscow

S t o r y
by Miles Mann MAREX-MG

Photos taken
before delivery of
system to
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MAREX SSTV Delivery to Energia
by Miles Mann WF1F            copy write 1998

Hi everyone:

Saturday June 20, 1998
My Visa arrived at 11 am, and the taxi for Logan Airport in Boston Mass arrived at 1 PM,  and the plane was scheduled for 4:00 p.m. departure. 
I was getting a little worried.  I kept checking the FED-X web page every half hour to track the progress of my Visa from New York, to Logan, to Lexington and finally to my home. 
My contact in Moscow, Sergej Samburov knew I may miss my flight because of the visa being delayed.  I had planed to call him as soon as the Visa arrived.  Sergej does not speak much English, but we were able to understand each other and he is planning on meeting me at the Moscow Airport on Sunday morning at 11:30 am Moscow time.
The connecting flight is over 12 hours plus an 8 hour time change.  I left on Saturday afternoon and arrive Moscow Sunday afternoon.

I got to Logan with plenty of time to spare.  The extra time came in handy to allow me time to register my cameras with the customs office.  It is easier to get electronics back in into the USA if they are registered. When I checked into the Delta terminal they suggested I change from the 4:00 PM flight and take the 3:00 PM flight because it is more reliable than the prop-shuttle flight at 4:00 PM. 
There was a good chance that my 4:00 PM flight would be late, and I would miss my 6:00 PM connection in NY to Moscow.  The 3:00 flight departed at 3:37, so much for on time departures. The couple sitting next to were not use to flying.  The girl was a little nervous. As I looked out the window we popped out of the clouds and I could see the airport.   Then the engines revved to full power and the flaps came up from 40 degrees to 30 degrees.
During a landing sequence you never retract your flaps unless something is wrong.  Then I realized we were too high and too fast for the runway and the pilot had initiated a Go-Around. The pilot came on the intercom and explained that the air traffic controllers had improperly spaced his plane, and he elected to Go-around.
When we finally touch down, the girl next to me who was still shaken from the Go-around, Jumped. I arrived at NY at 5:00 PM, with just enough time to grab a fast-food pizza, but not enough time to wait in the long line to buy a magazine to read. Looks like ill finally get some time to read the Russian language books I brought last month.

The flight from NY to Moscow is a 10 hour long non-stop flight, which was completely sold out.  And most of the people were Russians going home.  The plane had a problem with a stuck alarm light.  The bad light and weather caused us to sit on the runway for almost two hours.  We did not take off until almost 8pm, which means ill be two hours late into Moscow. 
Our flight path took us almost directly over my home town of Chelmsford Mass.
I called my daughter Jennifer from the Air-phone at 8:30 P.M. to wish here a good nights sleep, this was the last time I talked to her until I got home.  Too bad there was cloud cover over Chelmsford, otherwise she could have looked out the window and seen me flying over head.

Sunday June 21, 1998
Arrived late into Moscow.  Did not sleep much in my isle seat.  Flight and food good.
When we arrived at the airport it was 1 PM, I should have arrived at 11:30 am.
Now that we were on the ground, we could not leave the plane because  there was no electricity at the airport.
No electricity, no computers, no Passport entry.  So we sat in a nice air conditioned plane for 30 minutes till the power came on.  The night before a tornado hit Moscow center and took down many trees and power wires (9 killed, 100 injured).
Going though customs was easy, I just walked up to a counter to get my passport and visa checked.
Then went to get my bag, and walked out the green door.  Mr. Samburov, he had been waiting in a dark airport for over two hours.  Sergej had a driver waiting to take us to his home 40 minutes away.

I stayed at the Samburov home and was treated to wonderful Russian dishes. The food was great, for dinner I had borsch soup, kelbassa, ham,  potatoes, cheese, bread, vodka and ice cream.  My system adjusted very well to the local food.

Monday June 22, 1998
Monday, I was not sure what Sergej had in mind.  Sergej took the day off and made many arrangements.
We left the house at 11 am and took a bus to Moscow city about 40 minutes away.  Then took the subway and went to ArgusSoft to thank the PictureTel dealer for the assistance in arranging delivery of SSTV hardware to Moscow.
They people at ArgusSoft were very nice.  Next we went to the Russian Ham Radio Magazine and talked the Director of the Magazine Boris S. It was a long day, which included a few demos of the MAREX-MG SSTV System.
Time to sleep,  I think, its either 11 PM or 3 PM, not sure, but I am tired.

Tuesday June 23, 1998
We had to be at Energia at 11 am.
I had a tour of the two Mission control centers, Mir and Alpha. The Russians call the International Space Station program , Alpha.  I had a good lunch with Paval, Sergej, Nick in a small restaurant sandwich bar, in the basement of a government building.  I think my lunch was some type of veal and cheese with French fries (Frees).
After lunch we went back to Energia and up to Sergej lab to discuss problems with SAFEX repeater on Mir.
I demonstrated one of the 4 problems, with the SAFEX demo system in Sergejs lab.  We were all surprised that I was able to duplicate the failure on the test system, just like problem the  Mir crew had complained about.  The SAFEX repeater was built by a German club and flown on Mir a few years ago.
The repeater has been having some intermittent problems.

Next stop, Inside the Russian Mir Mission Control center.  Last year, Mir Astronaut Mike Foale asked me for suggestions on how to adjust parameters for the Official commercial Packet mail system used between Mir and Mission control. 
Mike was having problems receiving packet messages from Mission Control, while he was staying on Mir.  Mike sent me a complete data dump from his Packet station (over 100 different settings).
I analyzed the data and called mike and told him that a few changes needed to be made at the Mission control packet station and that the parameters on Mir were OK.  On the very next orbit, I head Mike Foale call Mir mission control over the official Mir channel and tell them  which changes need to be made. 
Today when I went to Mission control, I was given access to the Mir Mission control packet station.  I of course checked the parameters of the system and discovered they had implemented my changes.  I was told that the system was working more reliably now.

Wednesday June 24
Todays trip was to Star City, approximately 2 hours drive north east of Moscow. We meet Cosmonaut Alexander Polishchuk, who drove us to Star City.
Alexander remembered me from some of our conversations we had while he was on Mir in Jan - July 1993 R2MIR.  He asked me if I was still interested in becoming an astronaut and how far I had progressed.  I was amazed he remembered.
When we arrived at Star City, we installed two of the three SSTV systems in a lab on the 6th floor of one of the training building (ham shack). I demonstrated the systems for many people, too many to count. 
Then a young man came in and every one directed him to me and the systems.  They forgot to introduce me, I did not know who he was for a while.  It turns out, he is the backup cosmonauts for the next Mir crew, Alexander Kaleri.
When Alexander Kaleri was on Mir during his last mission, we never talked, but I did talk to his commander Alexander Viktorenko on many occasions.  The SSTV demos went well and I was begining to adjust to the new time zones.

Thursday June 25
Got up early to got to Star city.  This time we had to take the train to Star city.  Spent most of the morning playing with the SSTV, and making notes in Russian.   
Sergej found a problem with the power cable labeling the Plus/Minus labels for power cable were wrong.
After lunch Vladimir Zagainov took us on a tour of the training center.  I got to climb inside the actual training model of  Mir and the Soyouze docking practice ships.  We were not able to get access to the underwater training tank or the centrifuge because it was getting late and most people had gone home for the day.
After we were done for the day, Mir cosmonaut Aleksandr Lazutkin (Mir Feb - Aug 1997), drove us back to Sergej’s apartment. During Lazutkin mission, I frequently talked to his commander Vasilly Tsibliyev.

Friday June 26, 1998
Woke up at 6am, I thought it was 10 am, I was looking at the wrong time zone on my watch. Then I spent the next two hours rushing around trying to get ready. Eventually I finally figured it out around 8am. Jet lag and Vodka are a bad combination.
Cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev, came to pick us up at 12:30 and drive us to Star City. Sergei Avdeyev and I talked about some of the school schedules I ran during his 1995 mission on Mir.
Sergei Avdeyev is one of the three crew members scheduled for the August Mir Soyuz TM-28 mission. Near as I can remember, this is the third Cosmonaut driver I have had this week.
At Star City, training began at 2:00 PM and ran until around 3:30.
Cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev and cosmonaut trainee Gennadiy Padalko were both present. The Mir Soyuz TM-28 crew will consist of Sergei Avdeyev, Gennadiy Padalko and Yuri Baturin. I never met Yuri Baturin. Cosmonaut Aleksander Kaleri is one of the Back-up crew members for the TM-28 mission.
Training went well, with all of the typical problems, plus language difficulties. Everyone spoke a little English, I do not speak any Russian.
The three SSTV systems are controlled by IR key pads and an automatic computer timer. One of the problems, was that when you used the IR to control box 1, box 2 and 3 would change settings. It got a little confusing until I put tape over the IR readers on the other two SSTV systems. Sergej and Gennadiy both asked intelligent questions and understood all of the connections and how to connected VCR’s and camcorders etc.
Training went well and both crew members said they look forward to using the system.
I was later informed that one of the cargo rockets was canceled. In an effort to save money, the August cargo rocket was moved to October and the November cargo rocket was canceled. There is always the possibility the project could get bumped to a different rocket or canceled. The SSTV project is currently tentatively scheduled for the October Progress Cargo rocket.
After all the VIPs, left we started to clean up. Then came the Vodka party. Someone brought in bread, spam and vodka. I knew, I would not be going home for a while. Fortunately I have developed a little bit of a tolerance for Vodka and I did not do or say anything embarrassing.
Then came the Gifts. Vladimir Zagainov gave me a bottle of a Russian made drink (not sure what it is). This bottle was a gift to Vladimir Zagainov from Mir cosmonaut Vladimir Titov, for all of his help on Mir projects. Vladimir Zagainov now gave me the bottle for all of the work I have done on the Mir projects.
I wonder who I give it to next?
On the way home, all of the Cosmonauts were busy, so my driver today was (I am sorry, I lost his name). He was the air plane transport pilot for the Buran project. The Buran, is the Russian version of the Space Shuttle.
The transport plane carries the Buran on its back, from landing site to launch pad, etc. The transport plane was also used for glider testing and released the Buran on a few glider missions.

Saturday June 27, 1998
Sergej and his family gave me more gifts to take home to people in the USA.
The suit case is getting hard to close. Sergej hired a mini bus to take me to the airport an hour away. There is lots of road construction, but no real traffic problems in the direction of the airport.
On the ride in, Sergej and I discussed Amateur Radio projects for the International Space Station. Sergej has offered me the privilege of building more projects, this time for ISS.
The Russian Space Station modules contain all of the Antenna ports, Equipment space and power for all of the Amateur radio
equipment on ISS. The first three ISS modules are all Russian built. The first Russian module launched in 1999 Base-Block, will have four antenna ports for amateur Radio.
The American module with antenna ports is called the Hab module, and will not be launched until 2006. So, if anyone wants access to an antenna port, they have to ask Energia.