L+200: Logbook - Part 3

This is the third entry in a final series of logbooks looking back at departure, landing and re-adaptation!

[cont.] After depressurizing the vestibule, we observed for a few minutes the pressure indications for the descent module and the orbital module of our Soyuz: both stable, so there was no obvious, fast leak. (Not that we were expecting one!).
Of course we needed to check for a slow leak as well, before we committed to leaving the Station and relying on the Soyuz hatch to keep our air inside. The full leak check would take 30 min, with measurements of the vestibule pressure recorded every 5 min, but since there was no fast pressure drop it was safe for us to reopen the hatch of the descent module and float back to the orbital module to don our Sokol suits.
 
I went first, as we had planned. Anton and Terry stayed in the descent module while I used the Soyuz toilet. I wanted to empty my bladder as late as possible: I did wear a diaper, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to use it in the several hours of weightlessness that still lay between us and the deorbit burn. Somehow diapers and weightlessness don’t get along for me, as I had experienced during ascent.
 
I put on my biomedical belt in direct contact with the skin and then my Sokol underwear, periodically calling the vestibule pressure readings from the manovacumeter to Anton and Terry, so they could report them to the ground. Over the course of 30 minutes, the maximum allowed pressure increase to call the hatches air tight was 1 mm Hg.
 
Anton joined me in the orbital module to help me don the Sokol. To make things faster, I basically held on to keep myself as still as possible and let Anton take care of tying and zipping up everything. One of the cool things about being an astronaut: you can let somebody else dress you as an adult and nobody laughs at you!
 
As Anton pointed out, we didn’t have a whole lot of time. Because of a test of the Kurs antennas, which would run in the background during our undocking, the ground was going to send the activation command of the guidance and navigation system over an hour earlier than they normally would on a typical departure day schedule. We were already talking Moscow-time at that point, since this the time on which we run Soyuz ops: the night before we had diligently written the significant times in our checklists, based on the radiogram sent up by Mission Control Moscow. Not only vacuum separated us now from the Space Station but, in a way, also three hours!
 
After I was all dressed up in my Sokol, which would keep me alive in case of depressurization during re-entry, I took a last sip of water from a bag that would stay in the orbital module, grabbed one last snack and then floated to my seat in the descent module. It didn’t escape me that those were my last few seconds of free floating: once strapped in in my seat, I wouldn’t unstrap until after landing on Earth. [cont]

Photo: in the Sokol a few days before undocking for a preliminary leak check.

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