Mr. Reiter, you spent a total of more than 350 days in space, including 176 days onboard the Russian Mir space station and 166 days on the International Space Station. How spacious was it there?
On the Russian space station Mir it was already tight compared to the ISS. I tried to roll over the square meter yesterday. A total of five modules were docked together. They come to about 60 square meters, but you shouldn’t imagine a room of 60 square meters, because the modules are very narrow: long corridors, 1.20 meters wide, ten to twelve meters long. The service module was a little wider, so to speak it was the lounge.
Was it different on the ISS?
Yes, we had almost twice as much space on the ISS, but it wasn’t as well developed as it is today. Alexander Gerst experienced the ISS almost in its final stages of construction and the interior volume is comparable to that of a Boeing 747.
Spacemen are prepared for life in a very limited space over a long period of time. How do you imagine this preparation?
Overall, it takes about one and a half years to prepare for a mission, and that goes hand in hand with an infinite number of simulations. You work on earth in the modules and train the typical daily tasks. About 70 percent of the working time is for science, 30 percent for the maintenance and repair of on-board systems. In these simulations, you are optimally prepared for the situation later onboard the space station.
Was it really difficult for you to really stay at MIR 1995?
Not at all, on the contrary. That may come as a surprise, but you are looking forward to performing these diverse tasks onboard the space station. In a way, you are at the destination of your dreams. It is not noticeable that you are in isolation. You are thrilled and of course, you have an incredibly great view from up there. During a normal working day, it is not the case that you can look out of the window permanently, but for example, in the evening before you go to rest. In this respect, this situation is not comparable in all areas with the one we are in today.
Was there anything you suffered from anyway?
Of course, a period of adjustment takes place over the months. At the beginning it is as I have just described: it is almost euphoric that you can finally get started, and time literally flies by. But when you are four months behind, you look at the calendar and say: Oh, two more months, but that’s long. Then you start to notice the tightness. However, this is not something that burdens you, because you really don’t have a second of boredom. But after half a year you are of course looking forward to coming back to earth.
In the current situation, in which we all stay at home, after two weeks there is already an impatience that the isolation may finally be over. Do you have strategies on how to deal with it?