Close-up: Luca Parmitano’s lift-off from Baikonur

Welcome aboard!
11 June 2013

"The countdown is less dramatic than what you might imagine. The instructor who has followed us from day one counts down the stages of ignition of the main engine...then a word in Russian, "поехали!", "come on!", and the engine roars to life." These are Luca Parmitano’s impressions of his last moments on Earth, shared in his ESA blog.

Luca is the first out of six young ESA astronauts selected in the astronaut campaign in 2009 to fly to the International Space Station for a duration of five months, until November 2013. His lift-off on a Soyuz 35s took place from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday 28 May.

Columbus Control Centre team after sucessful launch

Luca will be helped by an international crew on the ground in order to fulfil his multiple tasks on board the ISS and during both of his upcoming space walks. His first lift-off has been a tremendous experience for everybody involved, both at the Columbus Control Centre in Germany, and at the launch pad in Baikonur. 

A snapshot of Tina on the launch pad

While Luca was preparing for the final countdown and waiting to be launched on the Soyuz rocket, a member of the ESA Human Resources Department was close by:

"Following the launch from less than 1.5 km distance was beyond any words: I had not imagined that this event would leave me so deeply impressed", says Tina Weilmuenster, HR Advisor. "It was fantastic to witness all the preparatory activities leading up to this event, creating not only one, but many different very special moments. We saw the roll-out of the rocket on the train from its hangar during a perfect morning sunrise in the deserts of Baikonur and the excitement of everybody involved was slowly building as we followed to rocket on its way to the launch pad and saw it being moved into an upright position. But the thing that moved me the most was the atmosphere between the people - the crew, their family and friends and all the many people involved who helped to make this event a success.“


Tina visited the Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Moscow, and had the chance to follow all steps from the pre-launch activities in Baikonur until the final docking to the ISS and the hatch opening.

This experience, she says, was a great opportunity to get a first-hand impression of the real-time problems her engineering colleagues need to solve at the last minute: ”I got to see a completely new aspect of the work of the colleagues that I work with in my role of HR Advisor. This helps me a lot in my work and daily support role."

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