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Leonid MAC 1999:
Day 6 (November 16):
Relaxing Before the First Mission Night

As before, this day began as a continuation of the previous night. We met with the FISTA team, which included Peter, as we prepared to leave the planes after our equipment tests. Peter was very pleased with everyone's final testing and wanted to go out for drinks. The local soldiers escorting us said everything was closed by this time. So, Jane invited everyone back to her room to raid her refrigerator. I stayed until around 5 a.m. (local time) and then went back to my room. I was asleep by 6 and could still hear the party continuing.

I woke up at 11 a.m. and watched some TV during the next couple of hours as I finished some laundry and got cleaned up. At 1 p.m. Klaas and I went to the Galaxy Club to get something to eat. Michael said he wanted to sleep longer, but invited us to come over later to see the video tapes his equipment obtained while flying over the North Atlantic. He thought he might have caught the aurora borealis. At 3 p.m. Klaas and I went to Michael's room and watched his intensified camera recording. He captured two brilliant meteors and obtained some incredible footage of the aurora.

Afterwards, Klaas and I checked out of our rooms and then went to a dinner banquet for the entire team. Following dinner we gathered our gear and boarded the bus for the ARIA. Upon boarding we were two hours from takeoff.

Once we finished some incidental work I asked one of our flight crew if we could take pictures of the ARIA from outside. It was dark and our plane was brightly lit by flood lights. They said it was okay. Klaas, Michael, Jane, Dave, and myself went outside and starting taking pictures. It was the first time we were allowed to do this from the flightline. Interestingly, a British security officer walked up and asked if we would like him to take pictures of our group with the plane. Several of us gave him cameras and he very nicely snapped away. It was just another example of how polite people were at Mildenhall.

This was my big chance to photograph the ARIA from the flightline. The left-hand photo is a video capture of the ARIA illuminated by the flood lights. The central picture is a flash photo of the front end of the ARIA. The right-hand photo is another flash shot showing (from left to right) Michael Schmidhuber, Dave Holman, Jane Houston, and Klaas Jobse. Photographs by Gary W. Kronk.

We officially took off at 9:45 for our first mission night. Our flight path would take us south to the tip of Portugal, where we would turn east and fly the length of the Mediterranean Sea to Israel.

Go to Day 7--November 17

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