Finally we open the hatch. John goes through first. I wait to see if Sergei has anything else for me to do. Then I follow John. The hatch opening is surprisingly narrow. It's an effort to get through.
Then, looking up, I see two smiling faces, the Expedition 10 crew, Leroy and Sasha, give us a warm welcome. After two days in the small Soyuz spacecraft and after almost 8 months of preparation we are on board of the International Space Station.
I visited the Station three years ago, so for me it is not something new. Still, it is immediately noticeable how many items and spare parts are stored on board now. Life on board the Station was not easy three years ago, and it is not easy now.
It is definitely not a place for a holiday. It is an outpost for humankind. Only people with unwavering motivation would be able to put up with the difficulties and challenges of daily life.
There's not much time to look around. First an in-flight call with Moscow Control Centre, to celebrate the successful docking, and then immediately back to work. The Station Commander, Leroy Chiao, gives us the safety briefing and we start to unload and unpack in preparation for the full week of experiments, starting with those that are time critical.