Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kosmonaut Komrades


As always, research into the Russian space program is a learning experience in spelling and pronunciation, and it's been quite the eye-opener to seek out the profile of every Russian Cosmonaut!

Of the cosmonauts chosen over the decades, fewer have flown percentage-wise than in other space agencies, due to unfortunate program cancellations along the way. Despite this, the Russians hold more important space-related records and milestones than any other nationality!

Map of Russian Cosmonauts
The Soviet Space Program was born in 1951, when the largest nation and its surrounding territories were known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Or more correctly, in Russian: Союз Советских Социалистических Республик (CCCP).

In December of 1991, many of the former republics declared independence from the Soviet Union, giving way to the Russian Federation or "Rossiyskaya Federatsiya" and I'll spare you the Cyrillic pretense on that one. Almost everyone, in every language, just says RUSSIA.

While the space program of the nation certainly had border changes and budgetary challenges, most of their centers retained the same hardware and personnel, regardless of location or project. An admirable feat for a nation in flux! The new additions to the Space Travelers Map were all born within the boundaries of Russia, and those on earlier flights of course lay claim to Soviet citizenship.

It is worthwhile to note, however, that on the entire list, many cosmonauts of outlying territories at one time considered themselves Russian by birth, if not specific ethnicity – such as those from Azerbaijan, Belarus, the Crimea, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Turkmenistan, the Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Russian poster 1958Inclusive of Yuri Gagarin's historic flight for humanity, 77 Russians have followed him into the vacuum. Mapping their hometowns is no small feat, being that you have to find both the Russian words on Google, and then fit it to a corresponding spelling in English -- and the vowel variations get pretty wild.

Do you know how many ways there are to spell Alexei, Alexi, Aleksey, Aleksei, Alexandr, Alexander, Aleksandr and Aleksander? Well, now you do.

However, perhaps most puzzling pattern along the way is the glaring LACK of female cosmosnauts, after Russia went pretty far out of their way to put the first woman in space as quickly as they could!

Yuri and Valentina
Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova
First man and first woman in space

Technical note: In many browsers, you will have to scroll down through the Marker listing on the left side of the screen, and move to page 2 in order to see the Russian additions. In still other browsers (Cough*cough Why would you still be using Internet Explorer anyway?!) the markers may disappear at random when you zoom.