🚀 The Last Soviet Citizen Was In Space

🚀 The Last Soviet Citizen Was In Space

The Last Soviet Citizen Was In Space Hi everyone, what’s up ? I’m JH aka DOZgeek, back with Section 51.
In this new episode it’s time to discover the incredible story of the last soviet citizen. здравствуйте ! привет ! The last soviet citizen was Cosmonaut Sergei
Krikalev and he witnessed his country’s collapse from space and set a rocky course for international
collaboration. It was the spring of 1991, three decades after
Gagarin’s historic flight, and Sergei Krikalev and Anatoly Artsebarsky were there to follow
in his footsteps. In the Baikonur Cosmodrome — the Soviet Cape Canaveral — they were
finally ready to ride a 10-story Soyuz rocket into orbit. This launch complex in the heart
of Kazakhstan had sent the first satellite, animal and human , Sputnik, Laika and Yuri
Gagarin, into space. But first, they kept up the tradition Gagarin had started back
in 1961. The two men marched to the right rear tire of the bus, unzipped their spacesuits
and started urinating. Then, they headed for the launch pad. To the world, space travel had become routine.
American astronauts had flown dozens of space shuttle missions, and Soviet cosmonauts were
building ever more complex space stations, culminating with Mir which was Artsebarsky
and Krikalev’s destination. Few eyes glanced skyward that day, nor would they in the months
ahead. Events on Earth would soon distract the world and set a new course for manned
spaceflight that continues today. After blasting off from Baikonur, Krikalev
wouldn’t inhale earthly air for 312 days. In that time, the soft-spoken cosmonaut would
watch his country crumble from 200 miles up. Presidents would change. His hometown of Leningrad
would become St. Petersburg. And one communist superpower would splinter into 15 nations.
By the time he returned, Krikalev would be, in essence, the last remaining citizen of
the once-mighty Soviet Union… Unlike Gagarin, Krikalev was no folk hero.
Most of his countrymen didn’t know his name, and many still don’t. The famously humble
cosmonaut doesn’t get political, and doesn’t seek the limelight. But by his late 20s, he
was already an impressive pilot and a member of the Soviet Union’s national aerobatics
team. When the Soviets lost contact with their Salyut 7 space station in 1985, Krikalev was
on the ground control team that planned the audacious in-orbit rescue mission. That role
helped win the young pilot his cosmonaut wings the next year. And by 1988, he’d already
completed his first flight, a mission to the new Mir station. Helen Sharman was the first Briton in space,
launched with Artsebarsky and Krikalev from Baikonur on May 18, 1991 — Krikalev’s
second trip. She remembers the cosmonaut as cool under pressure. As their spacecraft approached
Mir, the targeting system failed. Her heart raced, knowing that a miss could be deadly.
But Krikalev’s aim was flawless even without the rendezvous guidance, and they boarded
Mir without issue, joining an existing crew. We can say that Mir had a well-earned reputation as a smelly,
noisy place. Not enough place. Dozens of stowaway microorganisms lurked on board, and Mir had
developed the distinct aroma of sweaty men locked in a small house with cognac. The constant
racket from fans and pumps and other machinery was enough to cause hearing loss. But to Krikalev, none of that mattered. “He
always said when he got into the space station, he felt like he was going home”. Most cosmonauts
read to pass the time, but Krikalev and his crew always spent their free hours looking
out the window. By summer, USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev’s
policy of loosening control over the Soviet states had led many of them to push for independence.
One of those states was Kazakhstan, home to the Baikonur Cosmodrome. To appease its government,
Moscow’s leaders offered a spot on Mir to a Kazakh cosmonaut, taking the place of the
more experienced cosmonaut who would have relieved Krikalev. As a result, Krikalev would have to remain
in space until further notice. Those initial five months now stretched out indefinitely,
despite the risks to his health. The effects of long-term spaceflight aren’t fully understood
even today, but the cosmonaut faced at minimum an increased risk of cancer, cataracts, nasal
congestion, muscle atrophy, bone loss, infection and even immune system problems. Krikalev knew the dangers but he had no other
choice. He had to accept his fate. In august 1991, a coup d’état was underway
in Moscow. Gorbachev, on vacation at the time, had frustrated hard-liners with his reform
attempts. Communist party leaders were determined to restore power. On Mir, as on Earth, details
were hard to come by. An official announcement claimed Gorbachev had stepped aside voluntarily
for health reasons, but many citizens took to the streets to protest the coup. It was
a time of confusion. Gorbachev recovered power within days, but
the country’s fate was sealed. Over the coming weeks and months, the Soviet states
declared independence one at a time. During that time, Krikalev got semi-regular
calls from his wife, Elena, who worked in mission control. The pair had gotten to know
each other over the radio on his previous mission to Mir. This time, they had a 9-month-old
daughter. In October 1991, as Krikalev’s original
stay neared its close, a new team of three cosmonauts joined the Mir crew. None had the
flight experience to replace him, but at least Austrian Franz Viehböck was packing lemons
for the stranded cosmonaut; he found them at a tourist shop for Westerners. Then, after
just a week, the Austrian returned home, taking Artsebarsky and another of the new three cosmonauts
back to Earth with him. So long, Krikalev ! The longer Krikalev stayed in orbit, the more
scarce Russia’s cash became. The collapsing country sold off space station trips to Western
governments to raise funds. There were even discussions about selling Mir itself, which
made the crew wonder about their status as tenants. The soviet nation sent its son off to the
stars to fulfill a concrete set of tasks but progressively and sadly it lost interest in
those tasks, for worldly and completely explicable reasons. And it started to forget about its
cosmonaut. There was a Soyuz capsule Krikalev and his comrade, Ukrainian Aleksandr Volkov,
could use for a hasty escape, but if they took the easy way out and left Mir, it could
mean the end of the space station. And so they stayed. The Cold War and the Soviet Union ended on
Christmas Day, in December 1991. In the former Soviet states, some of the world’s greatest
rocket scientists now struggled to feed their families. Countries like Iran, India and North
Korea were eager for their services. American officials wanted to put Russians back to work
in hopes of propping up the fragile democracy. Behind the scenes, the former rivals started
crafting a deal that put American taxpayer dollars into Russian rocketry and spacecraft,
keeping up operations in orbit. Krikalev was willing to sacrifice his own health and happiness
for that same cause. One day he even said : “now the country is in such difficulty,
the chance to save money must be the top priority”. Yes, Sergei Krikalev was my father ! Finally, Krikalev got word that he would be
replaced and could return to Earth. The last Soviet citizen landed near the city of Arkalyk
in the now-independent Republic of Kazakhstan on march the 25th, 1992. He was pale as flour
and sweaty, like a lump of wet dough. Krikalev had circled the Earth some 5,000 times, and
seen as many sunrises and sunsets. In the decades to come, he’d log 803 total days
in orbit. No one would spend more total time in space until his comrade Gennady Padalka
in 2015 — and this time that was on purpose. It would take weeks for Krikalev to feel normal
back on the ground and months to recover fully. Out of the chaos, NASA’s current trajectory
also emerged. After the USSR collapsed, American politicians began working with Russia, hoping
to take astronauts back into orbit with a space station, and eventually on to the moon
and Mars. Krikalev returned to training almost immediately, traveling to America to prepare
for his role as the shuttle’s first Russian crew member in 1994, flying alongside current
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. The international plan put a cosmonaut – Krikalev – on the
space shuttle and an astronaut on Mir — and ultimately led to one of the highest-profile
international collaborations of all time: the International Space Station, ISS. In fact, the U.S. and Russia combined their
orbiting laboratory efforts toward the ISS. But the Russians fell through on their funds,
leaving the U.S. to pick up the tab, or risk dropping the project altogether. The Clinton
administration thought it was worth the cost just to help prop up the fledgling country. Zarya, built in Russia with American dollars,
would become the ISS’s first module, or major component. Krikalev and his shuttle
crew were tasked with mating Zarya to Unity — the first American-built module… Thanks for watching.
Open your eyes. Watch the sky. Live long and prosper !


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