I was born and spent the first years of life in Smolensk, the homeland of the first cosmonaut of our planet. Later I moved to Oryol, where my childhood fantasies of flying to other worlds, the desire to visit places where no one had gone before us, evolved into the goal of becoming a spaceman.
This is where I took my first steps toward my goal. I had started flying a glider on my own long before I learned to drive a car.
After school, I entered the Higher Military Aviation School of Pilots in Kachinsk. My study was continued at the Armavir Military Aviation Institute. For the next seven years, my main goal was to improve my professional skills. All I lived and strived for at the time was to become a 1st class flight instructor. Having achieved this goal, I felt I was ready for the next step.
By qualifying for the Cosmonaut Squad, I really took my life to the next level. My whole life consisted of endless lectures, exams, and this alternated with parachute jumps, diving, airplane rides, survival training. Extensive geography of business trips, the widest circle of communication, and most importantly — all this was in a special atmosphere, among special, open, responsive, kind and brave people. And we were all one — a team, which for me has always been and remains one of the most important values. It really was a New World. I was happy, happy to live in it, happy to realize that all this gives me the opportunity to develop and move forward.
Step by step, I was approaching my goal and at the same time the most important exam in my life. Who would have thought that the plan «How to Be a Cosmonaut», invented one fine spring day more than 20 years ago by my schoolteacher Nataliya Vladimirovna Afanasieva, would work!
On March 29, 2013, at the age of 35, I undertook my 35th expedition to the ISS, thus achieving the goal that I had set for myself 23 years ago. By becoming the 116th cosmonaut of Russia, I also became the youngest cosmonaut/astronaut to have been to the ISS.
Later, within 8 years, I was in space twice more: as an expedition commander on the ISS expedition and as the crew commander of the first fully commercial flight in Russian astronautics. Twice I set the record for the longest time in outer space in Russian spacesuits. And, just as importantly, I met a wide range of smart people from all kinds of spheres, from science to business and the arts.
In addition to unforgettable impressions, this experience gave me the opportunity to understand that people often explain by luck what is actually the result of systematic work. Russian singer Garik Sukachev is 300% right «This phrase is worthless „Youre lucky». It was a revelation to me that being friends and being a team are two completely different things, but I realized what it needs to be a team, I realized the price and the role of such qualities as trust and responsibility. By will of fate, I saw the analogy of a flight into space with the latest realities of remote work on Earth, understood what helps me stay effective in conditions of high uncertainty, thought about how to manage stress and prevent internal burnout.
The goal-calling of the first part of life has been achieved, and new goals appear on my life horizon...
And yet, the view of our planet from space is a most precious and unforgettable feeling, prompting speculation about our place in the universe and whether and when we will encounter other worlds similar to ours and when will it happen.
In general, my path to the cosmonaut profession, as well as space activities themselves, has a common feature — both of them are activities under high levels of uncertainty.
Efficiency under these conditions is largely determined by the following:
— willingness to accept risk and responsibility;
— the ability to make non-standard decisions;
— the desire to constantly learn new things;
— the ability to work in a team.
But that’s in space, and what’s on Earth? As it turns out, life on Earth today cannot be called stable either. We live in an environment of constant change, or rather, in an environment of accelerating changes! Consequently, it is possible to extrapolate the cosmic experience to life and activity on earth.
In flight there is also acute stress, but predominant is chronic one, because from the moment you enter the rocket to the landing of the capsule you live and work according to a cyclogram, where you personally determine nothing: neither the scope of your tasks, nor your social circle, nor your environment in general — and this is already stress. We are all different and the specific cause of chronic stress can be different for everyone: communication with colleagues, lack of opportunity to go for a walk, repetitive food...
The ability to manage stress largely determines how much energy you will spend on your goals and how long you will be passionate about your work.
This is both my favorite and the hardest job of my life. Each spacewalk is a new defiance. Every time I remembered the words of the Hero, the USSR pilot-cosmonaut V.A. Lyakhov, «It’s not what it will be like!» I was prepared for it and convinced of its rightness, because, despite rigorous preparation, each time there were nuances that one had not expected and with which we had to cope here and now, counting on yourself, your partner and the support of a specialist in the MCC.
Analyzing this experience, you understand that it helps to control the situation in any
risky business to follow the following principles:
— careful preparation and planning of regular and possible non-staff work;
— quality communication in the process of work;
— work in team.
We have our own term — crew, which is a team, but in fact, it turns out in different ways. The team, like the crew, is not just the people who board the rocket; the team may also include specialists who remain on Earth. It all depends on how these people relate to each other. Just as any crew has a commander, so any team has a leader, they form a single system. And the effectiveness of this system should be considered as a whole.
— restriction of movement;
— imbalance of mental and physical activity;
— no boundaries between personal and work time;
— the presence of relatives, which suddenly grew considerably more.
If you can solve these questions, you are a real cosmonaut, who, on a big spaceship called «Earth», is confidently racing across the expanses of the galaxy to meet new challenges :)
Just lean against the porthole — and all thoughts go away, breathing and pulse slow down, and you are immersed in a process of contemplation, which does not get boring and, it seems, can last forever. Later the realization comes that the very fact of life as we know it is the result of a series of circumstances on a galactic scale, beginning with the position of the solar system in the Milky Way galaxy. Or, for example, with the relative position of the Earth and the Sun, because we feel quite comfortable in the temperature range of ± 30 ° C, while the temperature on the surface of the Sun is +6000 ° K. How precisely our planet had to be positioned relative to such a powerful source of radiation to provide such a narrow temperature range? These and a number of other factors made life and biological evolution possible. Understanding this, one wonders, «Is there life anywhere else in the universe?» And even though we don’t have the opportunity to be sure of that today, scientists are no longer questioning it, they think the question is different — «When will we find it?» And indeed, with confirmation of the existence of extra solar planets, it is only a matter of statistics and time.
Sometimes they seemed to be beyond my strength, but still each time I managed to overcome them. The most interesting thing I’ve observed along the way was people’s reactions when they got to know about my goal. The vast majority didn’t believe it was real, and some people thought I was crazy. It became obvious to me: as soon as a person stops believing in his abilities, he closes the road to his chosen horizons forever. Thank God the question never once popped into my head, «Is that really possible?»
Our crew practiced a quick rendezvous scheme for the first time. I have three spacewalks, one of which is a record length. And I was trained for my first flight not in the average 10 years, but in 6 years and a half. I seriously thought about it: «What is this — a fortunate coincidence or the natural result of something that I was not even aware of until now?»
My surprise was very great when I realized that in all my activities I had unknowingly followed a number of rules. This is how I have discovered my rules of space, and following them has determined success of my activity. And the first of these is never to hesitate in the belief that the impossible is nothing.
And then I suddenly saw something that I had overlooked earlier. It became clear:
— why I wasn’t scared at the start or during the descent from orbit;
— why exactly I was assigned to a crew with such a busy and complicated flight program;
— that the awareness of the trust placed in you is the highest degree of motivation to do your job perfectly;
— that trust is the only possible foundation on which the team can be built.
Since then, in my frame of reference, the pair of qualities «trust» and «responsibility» is the fundamental basis of any activity where two or more people are involved. This pair of qualities is like a double helix of DNA. And along this spiral, like a spiral staircase, we go through life either up or down.
I went on my third flight with the goal of transporting a tourist crew safely and reliably, operating a spaceship alone for the first time. Imperceptibly, even at the stage of preparation, I realized that not only the fact of the safe flight of people who trusted me personally is important for me — it is also important that after the flight they highly appreciate Roscosmos work and recommend it as the best service in the field of space tourism. This largely determined my activity both before and during the flight. Therefore, when, after some time, I learned about Maezawa-sans desire to perform another flight with Roscosmos and me personally, I realized that I had achieved my goals completely, and also saw in a new light the importance of personal responsibility for the project as a whole, regardless of the scale of your position in it.
Alyona and her team «Unity» help children who have a terrible disease — cancer. They cheer them up, help to see the beauty of this world and try to attract public attention to this global issue.
ART PROJECT «The Space Suit» I had been skeptical about art therapy until I accidentally heard a legend about the 19th century glass-blower from the town of Gus-Khrustalny, Razumey Vasiliev. The legend has it that for his sick daughter this master made a bouquet of crystal flowers which helped her to feel the joy of life again and to recover. This story touched me to the quick and I saw the essence of what Alyona was doing. And later we were able to create a special «overcoat» for the spacesuit Orlan, to deliver it to the board of the international space station and then back to the Earth. We called it «Victory». Little patients from various cancer centers with the help of the artists from the Unity team painted «Victory» — they depicted on it their most secret desires. On board the international space station I looked through the children’s paintings and one of them caught my eye at once — it was a little prince, to be more exact, a Little Princess with her rose. It was a curious coincidence because right at that time I was listening to the audio-book «The Little Prince» by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It made me know at once which emblem I and Anton Shkaplerov would use for our spacewalk. I am grateful to all my colleagues who helped us to carry out this project, those of them who managed to remain kind-hearted and capable of thinking not only about personal benefits. I wish all our little painters a quick recovery!
Today I know for sure that badminton is not just a sport, it is a lifestyle that allows you to increase its duration and quality of life. I hadn’t seen more mobile people at the age of 65 than those on the badminton court. In my opinion, the best way to relieve stress and have fun with friends is to play badminton. That’s why on January 1, 2018, the entire crew played badminton aboard the ISS. Thus, badminton was the first playing sport to leave the Earth’s atmosphere. Wishing to share badminton with our fellow countrymen in the Oryol region, we created the Badminton Federation of the Oryol region. We started by setting an unofficial Guinness World Record on June 23, 2018 — I was playing badminton with all wishing people for exactly 24 hours. And on August 04, 2018, we held our first tournament. Today badminton is one of the basic sports in Orel, both adults and children are engaged in it, more than 100 tournaments have been held. Start playing badminton right now and you’ll wish you had done it earlier :)
Space industry market 5 years ago was €250 billion; today it is €300 billion, which is 7 times bigger than the Artificial Intelligence market. By mid-century, the space industry market is projected at the level of €2.3 trillion. This means that the space is closer to each of us than we think. That’s why we organized this project together with the Cosmonautics Museum in Moscow, in order to highlight the history of space exploration in the past, its development in the present and prospects for the future.
Our project was awarded the 2nd degree diploma of the All-Russian Prize «For Fidelity to Science» in the category «The best online project about science,» but most importantly, the project was interesting to our citizens. And I will be very happy if it helps in the formation of future followers of Sergei Pavlovich Korolev and Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin, because space will not wait!