April 9, 2021

A meeting of the State Commission took place at Site 254 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome to review the readiness of the Soyuz-2.1a space rocket with the Soyuz MS-18 crewed spacecraft. Based on the results of tests carried out by specialists of Roscosmos subsidiaries at the launch complex of Site 31, the members of the State Commission cleared the launch vehicle for filling and launch at 07:42:41 UTC.

In accordance with the work schedule, the launch teams begin filling the rocket with propellant components. The operations will be completed at 04:55 UTC, after that the liquid oxygen filling hoses will be undocked from the rocket and the niches of the launch structure, the mobile filling units will be undocked from the filling and electric dispensers and the filling units will be evacuated from the launchpad.

Two hours before, after autographing the doors of their rooms, the prime crew consisting of Oleg Novitsky, Petr Dubrov and Mark Vande Hei left the Cosmonaut Hotel where they spent two weeks training (Site 17 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome) accompanied by the traditional song Grass By the Home by the Zemlyane group.

The crew proceeded to a specially equipped Zvezdny bus, which took them to Site 254 of the cosmodrome. The backup crew of Anton Shkaplerov, Oleg Artemyev and Anne McClain followed them on the other bus. The ceremony of leaving the hotel is one of the Baikonur traditions, like watching the White Sun of the Desert movie on the eve of the launch or planting trees on the Alley of Cosmonauts.

In order to comply with the pandemic safety measures, there were no friends and relatives of cosmonauts and astronauts otherwise traditionally present at Baikonur on the launch day. At Site 254, the prime crew will put on flight suits and report to the State Commission headed by Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin on their readiness for the upcoming flight.

The launch of the carrier rocket, the docking of the spacecraft with the International Space Station, the meeting of the crews in low-earth orbit will be broadcast live. The broadcast of the prelaunch preparations and the launch itself will begin at 06:00 UTC on Roscosmos website and on social media accounts.

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