The International Space Station has been in orbit for more than 20 years, but it had an important precedent: the Mir Space Station, which was the first International Space Station to exist, breaking its own record of time spent in space twice. It also allowed astronaut Sergei Krikalev to remain in third place in the accumulated permanence in space, although the history of this aerospace engineer contains a major historic change on Earth that made it spend twice as much time in space than originally planned.

In 1990, while Krikalev was preparing for this mission, the astronaut had already spent a long stay at the Mir station. But at the same time, it was a troubled period in the still existing Soviet Union, in fact, it was the last breath of this large group of republics which in turn I would have less and less budget for space missions and so that a certain astronaut can receive his replacement.

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The Mir turned out to be a matryoshka, above all a political outbreak

Sergei Krikalev and his companions Anatoli Artserbarski and Helen Sharman took off on May 19, 1991 from the Baikonur platform, at the time inside the Kazakhstan Soviet Soviet Socialist Republic. Each had planned to be up there until a certain day depending on their missions, so that Sharman would descend to Earth on May 26 and Artsebarki and Krikalev return in October, having passed the baton on to other companions. Except that Artsebarki has been replaced by (Aleksandr Volkov) and not Sergei.

Faced with the rise of political and economic tensions, The price of the Baikonur Cosmodrome has gone up. Without the coffers to afford much more space travel, no other viable (and cheaper) alternative, and with the citizens in space, it dawned on the Soviet government that it could get a discount if, at Amid the nationalist excitement, he allowed the Kazakhs to appoint their country’s first astronaut to spend time with Mir.

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Sergei Krikalev. Image: NASA

The chosen one: Toktar Aubakirov. The downside: I was not qualified to stay in the space for an extended stay.

Meanwhile, on the mainland, tensions were mounting, there had even been attempted coup d’etats and information had reached the space station in pieces. Krikalev and his partner did not understand what was going on and wondered if it affected the space programAnd the boy did.

The increasingly diluted Soviet Union sold space travel to other space agencies to raise funds and even tried to sell the MirAlthough not even realized with Russia as such and with the ISS in space (when Mir was almost a nuisance to NASA). In this situation, Volkov and Krikalev considered leaving the Mir with the Raguda reentry capsule that was there, but decided to stay and not to endanger the existence of the space station.

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Merry Christmas

The end of the USSR came on Christmas 1991 and with it the economic uncertainty of many regions (and families), including space travel. How? ‘Or’ What? ‘Or what the return mission was expensiveKrikalev decided to sacrifice his own health so that the Russian space agency could save a little more.

“The main reason was economic, because [quedarse] allows them to save resources. They say it’s hard for me (it’s not very convenient for my health), but now the country is in a tough time and if there is an option to save money it must be the main priority. “Sergei Krikalev, from the Mir space station

At that time, there was still time to complete the study on the health consequences of microgravity that had been carried out with the “space twins”, but Krikalev was aware that the extension of a longer space mission (for which he had been trained more) would carry risks such as muscle wasting, increased exposure to radiation, or a weakened immune system.

Krikalev’s mission lasted twice as long: ten months

Finally, the mission lasted double the expected: 311 days (ten months). Fortunately, he had enough food to survive, although it was the lemons and radishes that astronaut Franz Viehböck left him before leaving Mir with Artsebarki in October 91.

Fortunately, the space station continued to operate, albeit with a power failure and increasingly lame, and the astronauts were not without livelihoods or special equipment to help them when they reached earth. when it’s possible. Something that was also a debate take off in one country and land in another, because the first no longer existed.

The most striking change that Krikalev noticed

Krikalev may not have realized that his name had the repercussions (past, present, and future) that others many have in mind like Gagarin or Buzz Aldrin, but when he was the person who had accumulated the most days in space, in addition to strength. Although what piqued the curiosity of journalists was that he left Leningrad to take off from the USSR and landed in Kazakhstan to return to St. Petersburg. Same places, different names.


Sergei Krikalev et James H Newman Sergei Krikalev (right) and James H. Newman (left) working on Zarya. Image: NASA

The astronauts returned to Earth on March 25, 1992, and reporters asked Krikalev when they could interview him, which surprised him most when they arrived on Earth. But instead of alluding to all the geopolitical changes, he said that “the most incredible change you can see from space” was seeing spring blooming again on the planet.

Here we talked about the simplicity of the technology at the time, but Krikalev still managed to get in touch with his wife, who worked in Mission Control. And his career did not end after all of this, because despite the fact that the rivalry between Russia and the United States in space was remarkable (with ideas such as the Soviet cannon to protect their ships), the two agencies cooperated in favor of what would be the future ISS. In fact he flew on the first joint mission and with Robert Cabana they were the first astronauts to enter the ISS in December 1998.

Source: Engadget