-I have always felt drawn to the world of unknown. Sometimes my mother allowed me to watch «Star Wars», and I’m grateful to her for that. I remember how my friends and I were seriously going to build a flying saucer. Actually I wish everyone to have a strong idea and follow it. And it doesn’t matter what you will be, the main thing is your desire. As for me, I made a choice of my profession at the age of about 12. And further I was following the plan: aero club, air force school for pilots, military service as a pilot, shortlisting of astronauts…
-You were born in the Smolensk Region, but the citizens of Orel also consider you their townsman, moreover you are an honorary citizen of this town. How did it happen?
-It is connected with the change of domicile when I was a child. I went to school (second grade) in Orel and then spent all my youth in this town. My parents also live there, so Orel is my hometown. I certainly don’t deny Smolensk Region, which is all the more the homeland of the first astronaut, but that’s how it all happened.
-This year you returned from your second flight. And both of your flights were really long-term. Tell us about adaptation?
-Yes, I returned on February 28. I had promised to bring spring, but still it came pretty late… As for the flights, I wouldn’t say that they were long-term, they were quite standard. Today almost all our flights last for half a year. And mine wasn’t an exception.
-There is a lot to tell about adaptation… For example after the flight I found out that I had grown up for 2 sm.! And in a couple of days after landing I returned to my regular height. It’s because your vertebra diverse without usual weight. Though we run there and even have a special costume with weight for muscles and upright posture. My colleagues don’t like it, but I had been wearing it all the flight, and nevertheless I grew up.
Another thing is a fast weight gain after the flight. It happens because of fluid redistribution. We all remember that we consist of water for eighty percent, and in normal life the fluid goes closer to the legs due to gravity. While in the space the fluid redistributes and goes closer to the head. And the brain doesn’t like it by the way, it even aches sometimes… So, our body perceives this efflux of fluid to the head as fluid surplus and begins getting rid of it. But when we come back to the Earth we have a lack of fluid, and here comes weight gain. I gained about 8 kg during the first week on the Earth. And the amplitude increases every time.
With muscles it’s easier, maintenance system is very good. The next day after landing I went to the gym and did as many chin-ups as before the flight.А вот с мышечным тонусом проще: у нас система профилактики хорошо работает. Я после посадки уже на следующий день в спортзал пошел и подтянулся столько же, сколько до полета.
But the main thing is vestibular tolerance, of course. I think you have noticed that after the flight the astronauts are lead by the hands. It’s not because of their weakness but due to vestibular defect. Our vestibular system is designed for gravity, and in zero gravity you get under transient performance. I’m sure you all have heard about kinesia. And then you return and it starts again. That’s why you see these waggles and rickety walk. By the way I was surprised: after the first flight I recovered faster, I felt no discomfort after three-four days of my usual life. After the second flight it took me longer…
But in general the rehabilitation begins on the second day after landing, including the physical one. We don’t go running, of course, but we swim — the load on your joints is not so heavy in the swimming pool.
-You had four spacewalks. Moreover in you first spacewalk you spent record time in the open space among Russian astronauts, and in your second spacewalk you beat your own record. Has anyone spent more time in the open space after you?
-There was a comic situation with the spacewalk. The next day after our first record we got in touch with a specialist who had trained us on the Earth, in the Operation Control Center and supported during the spacewalk. He congratulated us and said that the previous record was achieved twenty years ago, and ours might last the same time. However in just two months our colleagues established a new record! And my friend was in that team. So I called his wife with congratulations, and she laughed: «Sorry, we didn’t mean it».
Jokes aside, the time of spacewalk is limited by the possibilities of a space suit, to be precise its ability to absorb СО2, and this time is usually Two flights and four spacewalks 116th astronaut of Russia (USSR) and 531st astronaut of the world Alexander Misurkin was in space twice on the International Space Station during 334 days 11 hours and 29 minutes. Both expeditions were marked with records of spacewalk time: the first one (with Feodor Yurchikhin) lasted for 7 hours and 29 minutes, the second one (with astronaut Anton Shkaplerov) lasted for 8 hours and 12 minutes. In general Alexander Misurkin had four spacewalks and spent 28 hours and 13 minutes in the open space. Reference Meeting on the Earth 10.5 hours. And when people say that a spacewalk lasted for eight hours and there is still a large quantity of oxygen, one should remember about the time spent in the space suit inside an airlock. These procedures of direct and reverse airlocking also take time: pressure leak check for a space suit, for entry hatch, denitrogenation …
So when my colleagues had a spacewalk of eight hours and seven minutes everybody considered it a reasonable limit from the technical point of view, and nobody expected any records. However there was a small force majeure, and as a result the spacewalk was longer than expected. This time we had a task to make a high-speed data link system which would allow to transfer large volumes of necessary scientific information. It’s necessary for scientists to get experiment data online. However the antenna didn’t return to its normal position. And it was important since in its shipping position in which we were working with it, the antenna was lapping over the docking unit in the assembly compartment of the service module, and it couldn’t be left in such position. So we spent some time to return the antenna to its normal position.
Thus I treat such records with a certain touch of humor. As for our record, it hasn’t been beaten yet — there hasn’t been any spacewalks yet. And normally nobody plans such long spacewalks…
-It was said that during your first flight you discharged two cargo space crafts «Progress», had three spacewalks. Your second flight lasted the same time. What are its results?
-Well, it’s a difficult question. It’s not about the number of discharges or spacewalks. They are not the results as such. It is the quality assessment that should be a result, not the quantity.
My first flight was really exciting for me. The main task was to test a new rendezvous and docking system we were the first to test within ISS. And I am happy to be part of this new development stage of the Russian cosmonautics. Earlier the docking of two space ships took about two days, and now we managed to accomplish it with a short scheme for only six hours. It’s a great victory. It was all new for me, and besides after that I had a really busy program with spacewalks!
I would like to add that it was when Feodor Yurchikhin and I set a new record of a spacewalk in Russian space suits. We had a task to show that the system of a Russian space suit can ensure normal life-sustaining conditions for an astronaut for a long period of time– and we succeeded.
The second expedition had less «action»: I realized that I would see nothing new, and I was looking for motivation to keep the «flame» inside. However it wasn’t difficult: in the second flight I was a crew commander and the captain of the expedition which implies a different level of responsibility. You can feel it only when you do it, not just watch from the side. My colleague has a saying «Deputy is not a head», which I toEURASIAN FINANCIAL & ECONOMIC HERALD | #3(5)-2018 66 Just before the spacewalk 44th spacewalk on ISS tally agree with. When you’re in the flight engineer’ seat, you estimate a situation, understand what is happening and offer a solution to the commander. He usually agrees, and the crew does what is needed. And you think there is no difference if you sit in the commander’s chair. Meanwhile when you do so, you realize what your word and your decision mean. When even tiny things happen, you realize the price of you decisions… That’s why in the second flight it was important to me to go as an honorable commander and to meet all expectations.
As for the expedition itself, we are conducting a long-term scientific program and our task is to make everything correctly and not to spoil experiments. The results are being collected step by step and are seen with statistics, they are not expected right after the flight. The biggest part of all the tests — I took part in fifty of them — is connected with the problem «a man in the space», with further research of the impact of space flights on a human and the ways to counteract it.
-You said that you had wanted to become an astronaut from youth. But after the first expedition your award and rank were delayed for three years… Did you think about quitting your profession?
-I prefer inside records and I treated this situation as a kind of antirecord too. Eventually it all ended happily. In 2016 I was already a reserve crew commander, we were going to Baikonur for pre-launch procedures.
At that moment I received an invitation for September 22 to the Kremlin — to get the award from the President’s hands. The start was scheduled on the day after next as far as I remember, and to get the award we had to shift all the launch programs. So I thought it was not on the cards… However three day before the start a technical problem appeared, and the start was shifted for one month. So went back to the Star City and I attended the rewarding ceremony without any problems, moreover it was the day before my birthday. Everyone was joking that «Misurkin has broken the spaceship on purpose to get to the meeting with the President».
So I take the situation easy. But I would like to add that one of the most valuable things in my profession is that you can grow up. And such anti-records can also help you with that. These situations can offend you if go to the profession for material values, but if you have other goals and ideals you take it easy. When young people ask me about a salary of an astronaut I answer it’s not their profession…
Motivation is always important, and it’s not money at all. I meet such people, of course, and I’m always bored and uncomfortable with them. It is the shared benefit and good results that should come first, and only then you begin to make money on it. Yes, we live in a material world, but it will be more effective if you try to make this world better, not only take something from it. And when you bring something good, you receive something good and benefit.
-What are your professional plans? For example your colleagues had three, four or five expeditions. Are you going to continue your flights and for how long?
-I have always needed a challenge, I’m not fond of monotonous work. I went on an excursion with my class at school to a radio tube factory and I saw an assembling conveyer there, and after the excursion I thought that such work for eight hours every day wasn’t my dream at all. The same thing is the space expeditions — I must see the final goal, for which it’s all done. And I should admit that it’s hard for me to conduct a scientific program when I don’t see the final 67 In the Autumn, 2017 the space suit «Pobeda» with the dreams of 180 children from 10 cancer hospitals in four cities of Russia and USA was delivered to the International Space Station «MIR» goal of the experiments and the final results if any, whether you will see them or not. Honestly I want to keep the «flame». However today we can see ambitious and optimistic ideas about the flights to the Moon, new ships and modernizing — I would like to take part in it, of course. I really hope that these ideas will come true. So I’m not going to quit. And I’m not going to chase the figures either! The record is six flights – so make it seven. Why? I have such possibility in theory, but I’m always focused on quality, not quantity. So I will continue flying, but for something new.
-What do you think about commercial flights?
-I think that those few corporations which produce space equipment can only benefit from competitiveness. It’s a good opportunity for development and producing new space ships and special equipment.
- You were lucky to become an astronaut. For many people it’s just a dream. However space tourism is popular today, so what do you think about its future in general and in our country in particular? Have we examined the space good enough to let common people to the orbit, or the space is still only for professionals?
-If we turn to the history of aviation and remember all the flights which had lasted for a few seconds only, even when those flights became real people split into two camps. Many doubted that there could be anything more than entertainment out if all that. They believed that anything heavier than the air couldn’t fly. And we all see the level of aviation today. So I personally have no doubts that manned astronautics will develop. And I’m sure that private capital invested in astronautics will contribute to its even faster development.
Space tourism will be expanding, I even know a company in Moscow which plans to build a space ship for suborbital travel. I believe it’s a new milestone in our astronautics, and I hope these flights will be launched very soon.
At the same time one should realize that not everybody can go to space. The strict shortlisting of astronauts is stipulated not by the fact of being in the space but by the long-term preparations before the flight. You must have a positive health prognosis for 8–10 years, when you finally go to the space. It is also stipulated by the acceleration load while you go to at the orbit and back. And technically space flights are really expensive, so we don’t expect any space route taxis in the nearest future. Thus space tourism will be an extreme and at the same time an expensive entertainment. And with time it might become more and more available for travelers.
-Have you ever seen anything extraordinary in the space?
In the first expedition we were preparing our space suits before the third spacewalk. The commander rushed in and said: «Come with me quickly!» We realized something serious had happened. We hurried to the large window and saw that something was flying in 1.5 meters from the station. Then we found out that it was an element of the ship, and a question arose, whose element it was — ours or our partners’ from the neighboring segment. My colleagues started to take photos. The next day we learned that it was a vacuum seal from one of our antennas. Pictures were sent to the Earth, and the Internet was buzzing about a UFO near ISS.
-What do you do in your free time in an expedition?
-Honestly there isn’t much free time. We have a strict schedule. 8.5 hour of sleep. I slept only 5–6 hours, I was taking a lot of pictures and observing the Earth, the Moon and the space in general. Every time before going to bed I went to the Cupola and had a rest for about 15 minutes just observing the Earth. Colleagues called the Cupola my dacha. Besides observing the space I was speaking to my family and colleagues.
-Eight and a half hours for sleep… and you don’t sleep enough as you have mentioned. How does it influence you? Do they claim that you break the schedule?
-Of course we can’t break the work-rest schedule. So I consider it my draw-back. But people with proactive approach to life never have enough time during the day. I decided long ago that I should review my time management, I haven’t done it yet. It’s all because there is a lot I want to do on the Earth and in the Space.
- For example?
-For example I dedicate a lot of time to badminton. I support it in Orel – with the help of my friends and townsmen we have organized a Federation of Badminton of the Orel Region. I would like to ramp it up so that the system could work itself, and I could only observe and control that everything goes right.
What is my goal? To show people that there is a cheap, available instrument to make their life better. I don’t aim to raise Olympic champions, but I want to show that badminton is a serious, Olympic sport and a nice way to reduce stress. After the training session your head is clear, your breath is deep and your life seems great… I wish that as many people as possible would know about it and try it. I spend a lot of time on it, but my goal is ambitious too: I aim to involve at least five percent of the Orel Region’s population into this sport by 2021.
By the way recently I organized a marathon in Orel — I was playing badminton for 24 hours with any person who joined me. Very different people were coming but participated with great interest. To make this sport more popular we even played in the space. On January 1, 2018 there was a friendly doubles tournament in the space, and it became the first team game ever beyond the Earth! Moreover it had feedback in badminton sphere too: we published the information right before the Europe Championship in Kazan in February, and the organizers were so impressed that they «issued» medals for us, real, gold ones, «For presenting badminton in the space». I even felt ashamed, because golden medals are usually earned «in blood and sweat», not the way we did…
But the main thing is that I found inner motivation in badminton to benefit people and society. The society gave me opportunity to fly to space, and I found my way to recompense. I really hope for success…