Monday, October 8, 2007

Launch minus 5 days and counting

Trip to Baikonur

Tammy and Chai-Fei were up at 4AM to get packed and go to IBMP and get the monocytes on the next leg of our trip. I am not far behind, I am up at 4:30AM, shower, pack and go down to the lobby and wait for our pick-up at 6:20 AM. We then go to the labs where we pick up the rest of the team. We check in at the Energia airport and board on an ESA chartered KOCMOC Ty-134A airplane. It holds 76 passengers. First class looks a lot like our economy class except the seats have more padding and there is a curtain separating us from them. Everyone is excited about going to the launch site and spirits are high. A team of Malaysian scientists have been added to the science effort about 8 months ago and we look forward to getting to know them better during the next five days. We will be in the air for about 4 hours before landing in Kazakhstan. Many of us are sleeping in our seats in preparation for the work ahead in the labs.
We arrive in the labs and start to set up, last time the labs were used was 6 months ago, portable vacuums must be found and turned on, CO2 incubator turned on and calibrated, biological safety hoods cleaned and turned on. Our three suitcases are opened and spread on the floor. The three of us start the procedures all working independently but in unison.

First we make media and filter, then spin the four tubes of monocytes and count them under the calibrated hemocytometer under the microscope. Next we subculture and feed them before we can leave. It is 7:30PM, the rest of the European team is waiting for us outside the lab. We now are free to check into the Hotel #1, have a late dinner about 8:30 PM and then unpack and settle in after 10PM.