This is a little late, but I didn’t want this to go unnoticed. Dmitri Zaikin, part of the first cosmonaut selection group, passed away on October 20. Only four now remain of the original twenty chosen in 1960: Valery Bykovsky, Viktor Gorbatko, Alexei Leonov and Boris Volynov.
Dmitri Zaikin was born on 29 April 1932 in Yekaterinova, a small town in Southern Russia. He lost his father in the fight for Stalingrad in 1942. Zaikin learned to fly at Chernigov School in Armavir and then went on to the pilot school in Frunze (now Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan), graduating in 1954. He served as a fighter pilot in various units, eventually becoming chief pilot. Zaikin was selected to become a cosmonaut and joined the group in March 1960. His first assignment was as pilot Pavel Belyayev’s second backup on the 1965 Voskhod 2 mission, in which Alexei Leonov made the first spacewalk. He moved up to first backup when Viktor Gorbatko became ill. After this he trained for the Voskhod program until it was cancelled in 1966, graduated from Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy, and trained to become a Soyuz commander. Zaikin’s cosmonaut career came to an end when an ulcer was discovered and he left the group in 1969. Unable to fly in space, he became the deputy commander for the cosmonaut group selected in 1970 and later worked as an engineer, training crews on station electronics. He had two sons, Andrei and Dennis, with wife Tatyana. He continued to live in Star City after he retired in 1996.
Zaikin’s involvement with the space program was first acknowledged in 1977, in fellow first selection group member Georgi Shonin’s book The Very First Ones. His full name was not disclosed until an article on the first cosmonauts appeared in Soviet newspaper Izvestia in 1986, during the more open times of Gorbachev’s reign.
"I think if I would get a chance again … I would want to be a cosmonaut again. But now I know all my mistakes and now I could avoid them all. I liked to tell the truth when I was young; now I think I wouldn’t do it. I got some problems when telling the truth. I am sorry for the fact that I didn’t get any practice as a pilot. I lost it during all those years. And I regret that.” - When asked if he ever regretted becoming a cosmonaut, The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team by Colin Burgess and Rex Hall
(Sources: GCTC, The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team by Colin Burgess and Rex Hall)
I visited the statue of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in Saint Petersburg a few weeks ago. The street it’s on also bears his name. It was being repaired at the time, hence the tape around it. The sculptor didn’t make the bottom half of his body as detailed as the top and it looks like an old man with a blanket on his lap, not quite the image of a great scientist and inventor dreaming of going into space.
I almost forgot about Soyuz 11! Today in 1971 the crew of Soyuz 11; Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev; died during landing as a result of their Soyuz depressurizing (among other problems). They were the first crew to stay on a space station, Salyut 1.
This photo is after the press conference that confirmed Volkov, Dobrovolsky and Patsayev as the Soyuz 11 crew. The original crew was taken off when it was discovered on a X-ray that crew member Valery Kubasov might have tuberculosis. Left to right: Volkov, Dobrovolsky, head of cosmonaut training Nikolai Kamanin, Patsayev, Vladimir Shatalov and Nikolai Rukavishnikov, both of the Soyuz 10 crew.
Gennady Padalka and Oleg Kononenko have their birthday today (June 21). Last year they both celebrated it on the ISS. Padalka is in fourth place for most amount of time in space at 710 days and 6 hours. He has had a mission on Mir and three missions on the ISS. Kononenko started his career as an engineer before becoming a cosmonaut and making two flights aboard the ISS in 2008 and 2011-2.
Soyuz TM-5 launched on this day in 1988 (June 7). It carried Anatoly Solovyov, Viktor Savinykh and Bulgaria’s Aleksandr Aleksandrov to Mir. Aleksandrov was Bulgaria’s second cosmonaut, but the first one to get into a space station. The first, Georgi Ivanov, was not able to dock to the Salyut 6 station in 1979. Bulgaria was the only country in the Interkosmos program to send more than one person into space.
Today is International Women’s Day! Despite having the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, Russia has only sent two other women into space. Svetlana Savitskaya made a trip to Salyut 7 in 1982 and became the first woman to perform a spacewalk in 1984. Yelena Kondakova was the first woman to be part of a long-duration mission on Mir in 1994. These were just those that made it into space, there were many other women selected.
Yelena Serova and Anna Kikina are part of the active group of cosmonauts. Serova will be part of ISS expeditions 41 and 42 starting in Sept 2014. Kikina is new, she was selected in Oct 2012 and is in basic training for the next two years.
Aleksandr Serebrov turns 69 today. He was selected in 1978 from the design bureau Energiya and has made four flights into space. He became the first to use the Soviet SPK, an astronaut propulsion unit, to leave the Mir space station in 1990, as seen here. After retiring in 1995 from the cosmonaut group, Serebrov worked for the Russian secretary of defence.