Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy birthday, Sergei Krikalyov a.k.a. Sergei Krikalev.

Happy birthday to one half of the "last citizens of the Soviet Union."

(The other half being ISS Expedition 17 commander Sergey Volkov's father Aleksandr - Volkov and Krikalyov were aboard Mir on December 21, 1991 when the USSR collapsed. When they left earth, they were citizens of the USSR; when they returned, a few things had changed, and they were citizens of Russia. Thus, they have the distinction of being the "last Soviets.")

Sergei Krikalyov is a cool cat.

The craziness which surrounded him during his time on Mir is way too involved to write about here. I don't have 2 weeks for one post.

The events of Sergei's space travel seemed at times a comedy of errors, though I am sure it wasn't funny to Krikalyov.

Fires, collisions, Volkov's spacesuit malfunctioning during EVA, a banged-up leg due to a hard landing, having to start calling your hometown "St. Petersburg" after knowing it as "Leningrad" your whole life, watching your country crumble, having to rethink your entire identity... really, nothing else could have happened to poor Sergei during that damn Mir EO-4.

Undeterred by the black cloud which overshadowed EO-4, Sergei would go on to serve on three shuttle missions (in fact, he was the very first cosmonaut to fly aboard a space shuttle) and two Space Station Expeditions, including the very first. It was Krikalyov who first placed icons (there are now dozens) in the Zvezda module of the ISS during Expedition 1.

He also received the beautiful icon "Theotokos of Valaam" while serving on Expedition 11. The icon arrived on an unmanned Progress supply ship, and Our Lady would make more than 1,000 orbits around the earth before she headed back home with her fellow space travelers.

Sergei Krikalyov accumulated more time in orbit than any other human being, 803 days, 9 hours and 39 minutes. He is now the VP of RKK Energia. Go fig.

No comments: