"For 10,000 American dollars, this suit can show up on your front porch after the mission."
Astronaut Clayton Anderson thought it was an absurd proposal. He never expected that a spacesuit technician would offer to sell him the custom-fitted, government-funded suit that he would soon carry to the International Space Station (ISS). Anderson laughed it off. Surely this guy was joking, right? Nothing like this had ever happened during one of Clay's suit fittings in the US. But this strange proposal was presented in Star City, Russia. And well, things are different there…very different.
Several years passed before Anderson realized that he should have taken the deal.
About the Suit
The suit up for grabs was a Sokol (Falcon). This Russian-designed pressure suit is worn during launch and landing in the Soyuz spacecraft. There was no plan for Anderson to ride a Soyuz up or down (he commuted to and from the ISS on space shuttle missions STS-117 and STS-120 respectively). Yet, he still needed a Sokol. During the bulk of his 152-day stay aboard the ISS, a Soyuz was his only way home in an emergency. Anderson's Sokol stored on the ISS ensured that he would be properly attired if the lifeboat became necessary.
As things turned out, Clay did don his Sokol and catch a ride on a Soyuz. One could argue that this happened under the best imaginable circumstances. There was no emergency. Rather than abandoning the ISS, the crew had to "simply" move the Soyuz to a different docking port to make room for other incoming ships. In these scenarios, the entire 3-person crew (the ISS now hosts a crew of 6) would board the Soyuz. This ensured that no one would be left behind if the ship was unable to re-dock with the ISS. If that were to happen, they would turn around and head for a landing in Russia.
Anderson's Soyuz had no trouble reconnecting with the ISS. The entire flight lasted only about 20 minutes. That's a good thing since he says the Sokol is rather uncomfortable to wear…especially within the cramped confines of a Soyuz. Clay recalled mandatory training sessions in a pressurized Sokol at Star City, which he said had elements of "excruciating pain". "It's a rite of passage," he says.