Как я стал космонавтомThe eighths item in the section “Space Education. Cosmonauts Explain Things and Tell Stories” is a broadcast from the ISS by Pavel Vinogradov and Fyodor Yurchikhin on the subject of “How I Became a Cosmonaut”.


Question 1. Pavel Vladimirovich, Fyodor Nikolaevich, how did it come about that your both without any agreement between your entered the «Flight Vehicles» faculty of the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI), being born in the opposite parts of the Soviet Union (the city of Magadan - in the north-east of the country, the city of Batumi of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic – in the south-west of the country). Why did you choose MAI, «Flight vehicles» faculty?

Vinogradov P. V.: To be honest, i don’t know how it came about, that Fyodor Nikolaevich and i were born in different parts of our country. We should ask our parents, but the fact, that we entered the same Institute, same faculty, began dealing with the same subject, perhaps, shows that there is no difference where people were born, where they grew up. The desire is important; there should be a will to work in some sphere. For me it was an absolutely deliberate step. I couldn’t imagine any other profession, any other Institute except Moscow Aviation Institute where I got my profession which I love, the one profession for life.

F.N. Yurchikhin: I absolutely agree with Pavel because i am the same happy boy of the childhood who has achieved his dream. As far as i remember myself my parents always told me about this profession. We were born at that time, when kids played cosmonauts in the yards, every winner perhaps was Gagarin. And it defined everything. We knew each and all cosmonauts. The favorite caption in cinemas was news about space. Well, cartoons for kids – this is out of question, and then news about space. We always looked at rockets, cosmonauts, heroes. Although i remember when i was in the first grade the teacher asked me who you would like to be in future I answered I want to be a goal-keeper. She explained that «goal-keeper – it is actually about sport, and i mean your profession», if profession – then cosmonaut. So, next there was studying of cosmonauts’ biographies: who among them graduated military academy, and who is civil cosmonaut. I understood for myself that i want to devote my life to the cosmonautics, but no way to the aviation. Therefore i made my deliberate choice. How many cosmonauts graduated MSTU? And how many cosmonauts graduated MAI? MAI graduated more cosmonauts; it means that there were more chances to become a cosmonaut graduating the Moscow Aviation Institute. Next was learning about faculties: aircraft and helicopter engineering were apparently not what i needed, but the faculty which was named «Flight vehicles», well, obviously it wasn’t producing dirigibles. Therefore the choice was absolutely deliberate, maybe, youthfully. i always tell: «don’t be afraid to set yourself lofty aims, undoubtedly set particularly lofty aims and go for them». Pavel and my destiny, perhaps, is a spectacular example to it. Thank your.

Question 2. Why after having graduated MAI you went to NPO “Energia”, nowadays S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation “Energia”? Was it a deliberate choice? Was it easy to be assigned to RSC “Energia”?

Vinogradov P. V.: After graduating The Moscow Aviation Institute i didn’t go directly to NPO “Energia”, which is named nowadays “S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation “Energia” ”. I had been working in MAI for six years, i was engaged in scientific researches, the theory, but still the wish to devote myself to practical cosmonautics overwhelmed. Therefore after six years of teaching in the Institute i came to work to RSC “Energia”, i came there as an already formed engineer and i was delighted to deal with those tasks, those problems which lay before our cosmonautics there in 1983.

Yurchikhin F.N.: It turned out that, comparing to Pavel, i was probably luckier, almost as soon as i graduated institute i got to RSC “Energia”, at that time NPO “Energia”. I was lucky many times on this way. As an non-resident student i was assigned to Novovyatsk city in the Kirov Region. After examining my graduation work, being aware of my intention, my dream to become cosmonaut, my teachers helped me. And by means of a difficult bureaucratic reassignment after thesis defense i immediately got to RSC “Energia”. I got at once to the Flight Control Team, MCC, and for many years of work in MCC, particularly in MCC, i was even more strengthened in my dream, understanding that «yes, i can». I am grateful to our company (RSC “Energia” – edit.), i cannot say in a different way, for being formed there as an engineer, first of all, as employee of the enterprise. The company named after S.P. Korolev – the fact speaks volumes. This is the company where the world practical cosmonautics started. I am proud and happy. I am happy that i got into this company, and i am proud that i worked and continue working at this company.

Question 3. The graduates of which else universities became cosmonauts working at RSC”Energia”?

Vinogradov P. V.: Of course they are graduates of country’s leading universities. We spoke today about the Moscow Aviation Institute, also it is certainly MSTU (Moscow State Technical University) n.a. N.E. Bauman, the Moscow State University, certainly Moscow Physical-Technical Institute, Moscow Engineering-Physical Institute, Moscow Energetic Institute. The best universities of the country, which prepared and continue to prepare stuff. Of course we are awaiting of them at our company. It is possible to enumerate dozens of leading universities, which some time ago provided us and provide today with the specialists – young engineers, willing to work.

Yurchikhin F.N.: Also it would be very desirable for this tradition to proceed so that the graduates, certainly mostly of two universities – these are MSTU and MAI, still could look to RSC “Energia”.

Question 4. Requirements to health of cosmonauts remain very high till now. How were you cultivating your physical form at school, at the institute, during work at RSC “Energia”?


Vinogradov P. V.: Each profession demands for availability of some properties for a person and for the cosmonaut’s profession, it is certainly needed that a cosmonaut has a good health, great physical form.

It is even not so much related to the fact that many doctors deal with it rather scrupulously, understanding that a person will be very far from the Earth and there are no quarters to expect help. It is not even the case. The case is most probably in the fact that our physical training requires performing our professional duties. Now Fyodor and i are in the compartment where there are two EVA (Extravehicular Activity) suits (the compartment from which we step into outer space). This question about our physical abilities, about our physical training is nonrandomly connected with this compartment, with these suits. This is one of the most difficult physical activities which is performed by the cosmonauts in flight. Rather many physical efforts are required and an unprepared person with a poor physical training undoubtedly just won’t be able to perform this activity in outer space.

Yurchikhin F.N.: I entirely agree with Pavel, at the same time i want to add something, understanding all amenities of our profession. I have known Pavel for a rather long time, i have seen him passing through medical selection in due time, he was an example for me, as well as his patience, purposefulness. Undoubtedly, recipes are very simple – these are trainings, best of all collective kinds of sports. There is such a notion as teamwork: joggings, gymnastics. All that is included into that recipe, which is called health, and the health is one of instruments, which cosmonauts use in order to achieve perfection. Thank your.

Question 5. What is to be done if physical parameters of the cosmonauts’ candidate are a bit not sufficient for a standard? Is it possible to eliminate problems by the means of trainings or little health deviations anywise?

Yurchikhin F.N.: Next question: what is to be done if health is a bit not sufficient for a standard?

Vinogradov P. V.: What is to be done if physical abilities of cosmonauts’ candidate and those, who are going to become a cosmonaut, for any reasons are a bit lower, aren’t sufficient enough for those requirements. I want to give you a very simple example that nobody is born as an Olympic champion. It is a huge work, possibly every day, every week, every month, but its work. The very same work that helps a person to achieve any goals. Maybe, it is said too pompously, but, however, our profession requires such work in particular. Of course it is possible to prepare yourself for many things. I will not say that for all things, but for many. I know many- dozens of examples, when young people come, in general not so ready, start to work, start doing special training, special types of training and finally their preparation becomes sufficient for our requirements. Therefore all depends on a person, every particular person. If you would like to get this profession, undoubtedly there are no obstacles.

Yurchikhin F.N.: I will take the small comment of Pavel Vladimirovich: “Pavel Vladimirovich, how many years you had been absolutely unfit by physical health?”

Vinogradov P. V.: Well, i have never been unfit.

Yurchikhin F.N.: Pavel was passing medical board selection for a very long time. i just know that, because it wasn’t once and not one year we met in so-called yard where the civil cosmonauts were passing the selection. What about me, i can say that in the year 1986 i submitted application. After that i had been trying to pass medical board for long years- and i couldn’t. In the year 1994 during the major medical board unforgettable for me i was declared entirely unfit for the “cosmonaut” profession, which made me to continue my efforts. And in the year 1996 i was already declared completely fit. So people, all is up to you, all depends on your purposefulness. Thank your.

Question 6. Sergey Pavlovich Korolev, proving in the government the necessity of civil specialists’ crew creation, explained it by the circumstance that OKB-1 specialists (nowadays RSC “Energia”) have special knowledge and skills for space technology operation and conduction of experiments. Did work in the RSC “Energia” actually helped Your during training for space flights and in the course of flights?

Vinogradov P. V.: I would like to answer this question relying on my own experience, although it is different from experience of many those people worked in our company. I can say that only working experience undoubtedly aided me in defining profession, aided me to enter this profession. It is that experience which is just invaluable – without having it probably it would be hard to look into subtleties of our profession. Experience of company work gives unlimited possibilities in the professional sphere. Engineers which worked and work at RSC ”Energia” and then come to the crew are trained incomparably higher than the rest, because this is our work, we know these subtleties mostly without bound. It is that essence of our work which allows us to perform, to fulfil our tasks. I don’t want to say that others coming from other professions to the cosmonauts’ crew are worse. They just have less experience because their work experience differed from ours. We dealt with and are dealing with engineering, testing, elaborating space technology in the very beginning, in its first stages, almost from first steps.

Yurchikhin F.N.: I have only few to add to Pavel’s words. The only thing I can say, the experience is actually invaluable. But another thing is the most important. When every day you come to work and see how thousands of people pass through the clockhouse to design space systems, create, manufacture, test and manage them, – all of them represent one company, all is near, all are here. If there are any questions you can go downstairs to ballisticians, go upstairs to test engineers, negotiate at any moment. At any moment you can go to the shop floor and watch the process from the very beginning to the end. All is accommodated in one place. And it gives you responsibility before all those, who create this technology, and confidence that this technology will not fail you.


Question 7. Why the applications were taken in RSC Energiafrom those specialists who worked for not less than three years? Do You consider that passing technical exam (RSC “Energia” cosmonauts’ crew entering procedure) was proper or You had to study everything from the beginning in the Cosmonaut training Centre?


Vinogradov P. V.: These are rules for people, who have already worked for three years, for instance, at our company, perhaps they arose from life because once there was a title “young specialist”, when a person went to a company and started mastering his profession. Undoubtedly the institute had already given much. But the profession subtleties (introduction into your profession, into some special matters) need time. And at least two-three years are needed to investigate, to start work as your older colleagues work. That is why these three years came from. That’s actually right. It is impossible to learn everything even in the greatest institute. That is why practical work immediately shows what a person is capable of. It is necessary to examine a person all the time: the way he works in a group, the way he is able to carry out some tasks, the way he in general wishes doing something. It is a very important moment, which shows to what extent a person can be ready for the future cosmonaut’s profession.

Yurchikhin F.N.: Three years, undoubtedly, are very important not only for the chiefs to understand, to what extent a person conforms to his business, professional skills. But three years are also necessary for yourself to understand if you can handle it. The profession is difficult, the profession needs responsibility. For these three years of work at the enterprise i completely got into this profession. For me such people as Valery Viktorovich Ryumin, Vladimir Alekseevich Solovyov, Alexander Pavlovich Alexandrov were examples. For me they are the legends of our cosmonautics. At the same time they aren’t monuments, they are people who continued carrying out the responsible work, shared their experience, continued and continue doing their job properly. As a matter of fact we grew up having these examples.

Question 8. In the year 2010th the RSC “Energia” cosmonauts’ crew was disbanded, and now the Cosmonauts Training Centre conducts open contest for becoming cosmonauts. Do You consider that RSC “Energia” workers still have advantages to enter the Roscosmos cosmonauts’ crew, and if “yes”- than explain why? 

Yurchikhin F.N.: This is a good question. But at first I would like to highlight the problem of the RSC “Energia” cosmonauts’ crew disbandment. It is a vexed question. Now we very often speak about and use such words as systemic crisis. In my opinion, the decision on cosmonauts’ crew dissolution, disbandment in the RSC “Energia” is just one of the signs of the systemic crisis. Because you know the crew was created. Have a look at government documents, history of creation of this crew, in which S.P. Korolev, V.P. Mishin described aims and tasks of its creation. For not going deeply into the space sphere I ask everybody to imagine yourself, for instance, “KAMAZ” - without test driver, “MiG”, “Su” - without test pilots of their technology. Each flight means space tests. To deprive the company of technology testers, this company isn’t necessarily RSC “Energia”, and then in future another company for instance will develop manned spaceships. And so what, this company won’t have its own testers, those people who will continue the work of people who participated in this process? Therefore disbandment of cosmonauts’ crew in RSC “Energia” is a very vexed matter and in my opinion an absolutely wrong decision.

Vinogradov P. V.: I absolutely agree with Fyodor. We were against such decision of this matter. It’s not because we are working at RSC “Energia”. There was a crew, cosmonauts in testing centre relating to the “Buran” program. Exactly the same way the need for the crew in RSC “Energia” was supported by many decades of crew’s work as part of NPO “Energia”. Do those who came to the crew have the advantages? Undoubtedly 100% of advantage. These are people who not just studied this profession, they were constructing it. That is why certainly the experience, knowledge which these people had, coming to the crew from the RSC “Energia”, are incomparable with any of the teaching courses in Cosmonaut Training Centre, other organizations, Academy of Sciences, anywhere. This is that experience which was gained by itself. Therefore there obviously were advantages. I can give many surnames of people who came to the cosmonauts’ crew and were a level higher than the others considering technical training. They were higher (by qualification – edit.) even those teachers who later taught them. Because that what they brought with themselves, that was the part of their work which they were doing honestly, were doing remarkably. That is why undoubtedly these advantages took place. For today we have partly lost them.

Yurchikhin F.N.: Relatively the open contest. There is one "but": there should be clearly stated limits, people selection boundaries for that profession. Within the same terms as ours there was the same contest on astronauts’ recruitment in the USA. If my memory serves me right, that was for the second time. There were more than five thousand candidates for entering astronauts’ crew. And we had a bit more than three hundred, and also the level was rather lowered. When i say the level i mean:

а) education - this profession requires special knowledge;

б) age limits – It’s not clearly what they were for because according to these criteria of new recruiting contest i would for instance never, never indeed get to the cosmonauts’ crew. Thank your.

Question 9. Pavel Vladimirovich, Fyodor Nikolaevich, both of your are instructors – first rate cosmonauts. Does it mean that your conduct some theoretical or practical classes at the Cosmonaut Training Centre. Could you tell us how the experience of cosmonauts already been in the flight is used in the CTC?

Vinogradov P. V.: Certainly sharing of experience of those who are in the crew already, who has already conducted few flights, is just necessary and very important. I think that not all is done there, not all is fine there. There is no consistency in sharing this experience. Undoubtedly those who come back from the flight tell about that. We tell about our flight too, share our experience, but there is no systemic direction in this process. i think that this is a big lapse.

Yurchikhin F.N.: I agree with Pavel, in this context all is kind of in haste. If we speak about our colleagues experience. Each of us was briefed by someone during the meeting with the previous crews in NASA. Moreover that was on the simulator. And cosmonauts just returned from the space flight were demonstrating and explaining some systems work features, some nuances, some subtleties using simulator. That doesn’t mean that we don’t share experience. I remember myself as the 13th increment backup, Pavel was in the major 12th increment crew, and there were backups. We – Oleg Kotov and i –together with the backups we learnt very much at that time from Pavel himself. Such sharing of experience among us is arranged rather clearly, quite fine. The only thing is that we would like to have the ”mentor” next to us, and that would have been right. But still there is no common basis. Do you agree, Pavel?

Vinogradov P. V.: I agree.

Question 10. For many people their professional activity isn’t related to their hobby, with main vital interests. And what about the cosmonauts? Do cosmonauts feel happy during their professional activity? Is it true that cosmonauts feel happy more often than ordinary people?

Vinogradov P. V.: Well, I do not know how more often a cosmonaut feels happier…

Yurchikhin F.N.: I can say that a cosmonaut feels happy.

Vinogradov P. V.: I would say that happiness is when your dream becomes your profession. It’s hard to say more exact. Actually, it is my dream – a difficult profession. I am endlessly happy that i do this work, and i’m going to do it as much as i have enough vigour, possibilities, health. This is actually happiness. You should be there where your heart leads you.

Yurchikhin F.N.: You know i would say so: “and even bigger happiness is that our kith and kin support us”. As far as i know Pavel’s family, his wife Irina and daughter Katyusha permanently live Pavel’s life. In my family there is the same, i am absolutely happy about it too.

People, have dreams and go for them, everything necessarily will come true! And are we more or less happier than other people? No. We would like to wish everybody to be happy and more often!

Vinogradov P. V.: We hope that Your got at least a bit insight into our profession. It is possible to talk for hours about it. Dream, dare – and i am sure you’ll get it all!

Yurchikhin F.N.: Dare, good luck!



Как я стал космонавтом
Как я стал космонавтом




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