Cosmonaut Stranded on Mir in 1991 Now Heads Rescue Mission to ISS
When a Russian spaceship docked as a lifeboat for three stranded men at the International Space Station in February, one may have wondered if Sergei Krikalev, heading the rescue mission, felt any deja vu.
If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s also sometimes known as “the last Soviet” for his more than 311 days spent in space as the Soviet Union collapsed 250 miles beneath him in 1991. He was only meant to be at the Mir station for five months. Instead, he remained for close to a year, never abandoning the outpost.
Today, Krikalev, the former cosmonaut, is the executive director of human spaceflight for the Russian space agency. That means it’s on his watch to make sure NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin get back home safely after their ship sprang a leak at the station in December 2022. The three marooned crew members were supposed to return this month. But their mission will now stretch for a year, until a new crew arrives to relieve them on a separate spacecraft in six months.
Krikalev’s story of being stranded in space is now getting a perhaps overdue spotlight with a new podcast series called “The Last Soviet.” And it’s being told by another cosmonaut, Lance Bass….
Few may remember that boy-band member Bass almost made it to space on a Soyuz spacecraft himself. In 2002, he spent about six months, off and on, training in Star City, Russia, and was certified by Russia and NASA to fly a mission to the space station.
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