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Valery Polyakov, cosmonaut who made the longest space flight, died at the age of 80

Soviet cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who made the longest stay in space, has died at the age of 80.

Polyakov’s death on Monday (will open in a new tab) (September 19) reported Roskosmos, the Russian federal space corporation.

“The Roscosmos State Corporation regrets to announce the death of Valery Polyakov, Hero of the Soviet Union, Hero of Russia, USSR pilot-cosmonaut, holder of the world record for space flight (437 days),” Roscosmos said in a statement. Telegram messaging service (will open in a new tab) (machine translation from the Russian original). “We express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Valery Vladimirovich.”

Selected in 1972, along with a third group of Russian doctors to train cosmonauts, Polyakov made two long-duration missions to the Russian space station Mir. In total, he was out of Earth for 678 days, 16 hours and 32 minutes, which puts him today in eighth place in the world in total time spent in space.

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Polyakov’s first flight began with his launch on the Soyuz TM-6 spacecraft on 2 August. August 29, 1988 Takeoff with commander Vladimir Lyakhov. (will open in a new tab) and Interkosmos cosmonaut Abdul Ahad Momand, the first Afghan to fly into space, Polyakov arrived at Mir three days later, where he became part of the crew of the third expedition living on board the space station (Lyakhov and Momand returned to Earth nine days later).

Along with Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov, who had already been on Mir for eight months, Polyakov was tasked with looking after the health of his new teammates as they entered the last months of their year-long stay. Titov and Manarov left the station and landed aboard the Soyuz TM-6 on December 21, 1988, after 366 days in orbit.

As for Polyakov himself, Polyakov spent the rest of his 241-day stay with Alexander Volkov and Sergei Krikalev, who arrived on the Soyuz TM-7 with Jean-Loup Chrétien, the first French citizen to make his second space flight. Polyakov returned to Earth with Volkov and Krikalev on April 27, 1989.

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Portrait of cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, a member of two long expeditions to the Mir space station. (Image credit: Roscosmos)

Polyakov’s second and last flight into space was to test the ability of the human body to survive a flight to Mars. Launched Jan. On October 8, 1994, together with Soyuz TM-18 crewmates Viktor Afanasyev and Yuri Usachev, Polyakov began an unprecedented 438-day stay in space as part of the 15th expeditionary crew at the Mir station.

After 179 days, Afanasiev and Usachov returned to Earth, initiating EO-16 with Yuri Malenchenko and Talgat Musabayev, who spent 123 days with Polyakov. This was followed by EO-17 with Alexander Viktorenko and Elena Kondakova, who arrived with German cosmonaut Ulf Merbold and returned with Polyakov aboard Soyuz TM-20 on March 22, 1995.

“We can fly to Mars,” Polyakov told his teammates after they landed. Traditionally, after the astronauts are helped out of the Soyuz, they are carried nearby to begin re-adjusting to gravity. Instead, Polyakov preferred a walk.

Valery Vladimirovich Polyakov was born on April 27, 1942 in the city of Tula, located south of Moscow. Originally named Valery Ivanovich Korshunov, Polyakov officially changed his name after he was adopted by his stepfather in 1957.

Polyakov graduated from Tula Secondary School No. 4 in 1959 and entered the First Moscow State Medical University. THEM. Sechenov, where he defended his doctoral dissertation. Later, Polyakov specialized in astronautical medicine at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IMBP).

In 1964, after seeing the flight of the first doctor into space (cosmonaut Boris Yegorov on Voskhod-1), Polyakov decided to specialize in space medicine.

Cosmonaut Valery Polyakov makes a toast after landing from the Mir space station after spending 438 days in space. (Image credit: Roscosmos)

In addition to his two flights, Polyakov served in the backup crews of Soyuz T-3 in 1980 and Soyuz T-10 in 1984, both missions were sent to the Salyut space stations. In between missions, Polyakov led the IBMP project to improve medical support for manned expeditions to the Mir, acting as a medical deputy flight director.

During his record-breaking second flight, Polyakov’s medical and psychological condition was closely monitored. He then underwent two additional examinations within six months of his return to Earth. The researchers found that Polyakov had no permanent physical problems in the 437 days, 17 hours and 58 minutes in space, and no long-term cognitive problems, although he did have brief mood swings during the first and last months of his stay. to Mir.

Polyakov retired from the cosmonaut corps in 1995 and became deputy director of the Ministry of Health in Moscow, which gave him the opportunity to oversee the medical care of long-term space flights. Polyakov also contributed to the recruitment and selection of new cosmonauts as a member of the Russian Main Medical Commission.

For services to the Soviet and Russian space programs, Polyakov was awarded several awards and medals, including the titles of Hero of the Soviet Union and Hero of the Russian Federation, as well as the Order of Lenin.

Polyakov was married to Nelli Mastakova, with whom he had a child, Elena.

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