It takes nine minutes from the time a Soyuz lifts off from Baikonour Cosmodrome until it and its crew reaches space. It is those nine minutes that the Roscosmos documentary 9 Minutes Before Space explores. With behind the scenes views of cosmonauts and astronauts being loaded into their craft, performing mathematical parachute training jumps, and building human pyramids on parabolic flights, the film alternates between the story of those nine minutes, the preparation that got the crew to that point, and the mission that awaits them on the International Space Station.

Cosmonaut Sergey Volkov (ISS Expedition 28/29) starts off the journey, explaining everything from the best way to sleep on the Soyuz to the music selection onboard.  Volkov describes the eerie feeling of hearing a sound like someone crawling on the outside of the station – really just the station breathing, but impossible to get used to. Cosmonaut Roman Romanenko (ISS Expedition 35)  joins in, describing how instructors explain the method for washing oneself in space: “Watch a cat washing itself, then repeat it.” He also explains the space currency of choice: Russian cottage cheese. If the Americans have any foods a Russian wants, they trade Russian cottage cheese for it, he says.

Alexander Samokutyaev (ISS Expedition 27/28) picks up the thread. He explains where one finds lost screws (or anything else) in a spacecraft – the vents. He also helps navigate the process for return to Earth, from knocking on the Soyuz door for luck, to refraining from talking just before landing so the crew don’t bite off their own tongues or breaks their own teeth from the force of impact.

9 Minutes Before Space is a comprehensive look at the cosmonaut journey. Watch the video here:

Image caption: A Soyuz readies for launch (Credits: Roscosmos).

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Merryl Azriel

Merryl Azriel

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Having wandered into professional writing and editing after a decade in engineering, science, and management, Merryl now enjoys reintegrating the dichotomy by bringing space technology and policy within reach of an interested public. After three years as Space Safety Magazine’s Managing Editor, Merryl semi-retired to Visiting Contributor and manager of the campaign to bring the International Space Station collaboration to the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize committee. She keeps her pencil sharp as Proposal Manager for U.S. government contractor CSRA.