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Northland astronaut uses space expertise to train others

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Wisconsin’s NASA astronaut is preparing for his fourth flight to the International Space Station, a six-month Soyuz flight in 2016, but as he prepares, he’s training others for orbital flight.

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Col. Jeffrey Williams has logged almost a year in space on three flights since 2000. But he’s also focusing on getting other astronauts and cosmonauts from Japan, Russia, Canada and half a dozen European nations ready for a Soyuz mission.

Williams conducts training in Houston, Star City and Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

“Focusing on our unique training aspects in Russia and then going from the process of training in Star City which is just outside of Moscow down to the process in Baikonur, Kazakhstan to launch because we don’t get a lot of specific training on that. There’s a lot of little details that folks appreciate knowing about in advance.”

The native of Winter in Sawyer County, Williams says the last leg of training is in Baikonur, the once-secret launching site of Sputnik satellites. They start with a fit check in the Soyuz capsule.

“Since it’s such a big trip to get everybody down there, we just stay there. We go into quarantine when we arrive there,” Williams said. “There’s some training that goes on during that 12 days after fit check. There is time to rest and relax and get rested up for a launch so the pace is very nice to do that.”

Much of his expertise is technical, but some of his advice is down-to-earth: “Don’t take yourself too seriously. Stay humble. Enjoy the experience. Be safe. Be deliberate. Keep your alert level high. Keep your guard up. Be a team player. Build the team.”

Williams says he’s worked with about 45 astronauts and cosmonauts in orbit, and another 50 or so on the ground.

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