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)
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.
"Communists blaze the trail to the stars" A stamp set from 1964 commemorating the Soviet Union’s space firsts: first satellite (Sputnik-1957), first pennant on the moon (Luna 2 carried two to the moon-1959), first picture of the dark side of the moon (Luna 3-1959), first man in space (Yuri Gagarin-1961), first group flight (Vostok 3 and 4-1962) and first woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova-1963).
An update on Soyuz TMA-09M. The crew of Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano arrived at Baikonur and have been through their first and second fit checks in the Soyuz. The press was also allowed in for a day and watched the crew exercise, relax and plant their traditional trees. They launch on May 28.