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How to Be A Cosmonaut for a Day Posted by on Apr 11, 2011 in History, Traditions

Are you ready for tomorrow? You might be asking «а что будет завтра?» [just what will be happening tomorrow?]. A quick look at the calendar will tell you that tomorrow is «двенадцатое апреля» [April 12th].

If you enter this date into Google search you will see that, in addition to it being a «сто второй день года» [102nd day of the year] it is also «Всемирный день авиации и космонавтики» [International Day of Aviation and Space Flight]. If you live outside of Russia, you might be more familiar with the official name used by the UN for this day – «Международный день полёта человека в космос» [International Human Space Flight day].

On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly into outer space and orbit the Earth.

Russian space agency «РОСКОСМОС» [ROSKOSMOS] has a very detailed timeline of the historic flight. American uploaded great archival images as well (my favorite – the image of the control panel of Vostok 1 spacecraft).

«Будете ли вы праздновать этот день?» [Are you going to celebrate this date?] Are you going to a Yuri’s Night? If you are lucky enough to be in Russia right now you might even go to one of the official and unofficial celebrations.

Attending concerts, lectures, star-gazing parties and lifting a glass to Yuri Gagarin and manned space flight is great. But, you can make it even better, by creating an immersive experience. It’s not exactly space tourism, but it’s fun and a whole lot less expensive.

Basically, you will follow some of the pre-flight routines established and faithfully maintained by Russian cosmonauts. Note: Special thanks go to one of our readers, Olga, for all the tips, links and resources she compiled for this post.

«Посмотрите кино» [Watch a movie]

«За сутки до старта принято смотреть фильм “Белое солнце пустыни”, вот уже более тридцати лет так делают все космонавты.»

One of the customs observed by all cosmonauts for over 30 years is to watch a movie “White sun of the desert” 24 hours before the launch.

So make it a movie night tonight. You can watch a digitally restored film, 10 minutes at a time, on, starting with the first episode. If you are puzzled as to how this Soviet-era action film about a Red Army soldier’s adventures in the desert relates to space flight, just ask either in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Or you can watch this 5-part documentary called «Белое солнце Байконура» [The white sun of Baikonur] for the answer (it’s in Part 1).

«Возьмите с собой мягкую игрушку» [Take a plush toy with you]

 «Мягкая игрушка играет не только роль талисмана, но и помогает космонавтам уловить момент, когда наступает состояние невесомости.»

A plush toy is not just a mascot, but helps cosmonauts to notice the moment when weightlessness begins.

«Распишитесь на двери» [Leave your autograph on the door]

«Утром перед полётом экипаж обязательно расписывается на дверях своих номеров.»

On the morning of the flight, the crew must leave their autographs on the doors of their hotel rooms.

«Пойте песню» [Sing a song]

«На улицу космонавты выходят под известную “космическую” песню группы “Земляне” “Земля в иллюминаторе”»

Cosmonauts exit out of the building to a famous “space” song “Earth in the porthole” by a Soviet-era group “Earthlings”.

«Пописайте» [Pee]

Yes, you read it right. That’s exactly what you must do on your way to the launch pad (work):

«Самая экстравагантная традиция космонавтов: помочиться на колесо автобуса, везущего их на стартовую площадку.»

The most eccentric of cosmonauts’ traditions is to pee on the tire of the bus taking them to the launch pad.

So don’t forget to stop by a rest area or a gas station on your way to work. Women-cosmonauts are exempt from this tradition.

«Ещё автографы» [More autographs]

«Весь экипаж обязательно расписывается на бутылке водки, которую выпивают уже после удачного полёта.»

The entire crew must autograph a bottle of vodka which will be drunk after a successful flight.

«Помашите рукой» [Wave your hand]

«Космонавты перед посадкой в корабль обязательно должны помахать рукой на прощание.»

Before getting into the rocket, cosmonauts must wave goodbye.

«Пинок от босса» [Kick from the boss]

«Напоследок перед стартом космонавты получают от начальника дружественный пинок.»

Lastly, before the launch cosmonauts get a friendly jab from their chief.

As for the mission itself, you can spend the entire work day watching videos on YouTube and RuTube, including more traditions, history of Baikonur, rocket launches, or episodes of «Новости из невесомости» [News from the weightlessness], a vlog by Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev.

Finally, «Посадите дерево» [Plant a tree]

«После возвращения из полёта, космонавты сажают дерево на аллее космонавтов на Байконуре.»

Upon returning from the mission, cosmonauts plant a tree along the Alley of the Cosmonauts on Baikonur.

Happy April 12th! Let us know how you plan on celebrating it.

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  1. Bob:

    As for little ol’ earthbound me, I’ll spend the night looking up and thinking about the lucky few who have made the journey skyward.
    And, wishing I was in Moscow for the really good celebrations 🙂

    Another movie suggestion: “Out of the Present”, a great documentary about cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and his stay onboard Mir while the USSR fell apart.

    My vote for soft toy: Stitch, from the Disney animated feature “Lilo and Stitch”.

    – – – – – – –
    Now, join me in a toast:

    To those who went first – for their bravery showed the way.

    To those who followed – for their deeds brought knowledge to us all.

    To those who will follow – for it is they who will remind us why we explore.

    And to all who look to the heavens with the
    same wonder and awe as our ancient ancestors – for we know that the destiny of man lies not in the ground beneath our feet, but among the stars above our heads.

    • yelena:

      @Bob Excellent toast, Bob! NPR has had quite a few interesting programs on Soviet/Russian and American space programs.

  2. Bob:

    Thanks Yelena!

    Here’s a few links for everyone’s enjoyment:

    * Here’s some scenes from the celebration in Moscow:

    * And having a little fun in Brussels:

    * And for your reading pleasure — the April 12, 1961 edition of Pravda: