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Sergei Krikalev : biography

August 27, 1958 -

Sergei Konstantinovich Krikalev (Russian: Сергей Константинович Крикалёв, also transliterated as Sergei Krikalyov, born August 27, 1958) is a Russian cosmonaut and mechanical engineer. As a prominent rocket scientist, he is a veteran of six space flights and currently has spent more time in space than any other human: a total of 803 days 9 hours and 39 minutes. He retired from spaceflight since 2007 and is currently working as vice president of Space Corporation Energia.


Krikalev was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia. He enjoys swimming, skiing, cycling, aerobatic flying, and amateur radio operations, particularly from space (callsigns U5MIR and X75M1K). He graduated from high school in 1975. In 1981, received mechanical engineering degree from the Leningrad Mechanical Institute, now called Baltic State Technical University.

After graduation in 1981, he joined NPO Energia, the Russian industrial organization responsible for manned space flight activities. He tested space flight equipment, developed space operations methods, and participated in ground control operations. When the Salyut 7 space station failed in 1985, he worked on the rescue mission team, developing procedures for docking with the uncontrolled station and repairing the station’s on-board system.


Krikalev was selected as a cosmonaut in 1985, completed his basic training in 1986, and, for a time, was assigned to the Buran Shuttle program. In early 1988, he began training for his first long-duration flight aboard the Mir space station.

This training included preparations for at least six EVAs (space walks), installation of a new module, the first test of the new Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), and the second joint Soviet-French science mission. Soyuz TM-7 was launched on November 26, 1988, with Krikalev as flight engineer, Commander Alexander Volkov, and French astronaut Jean-Loup Chrétien. The previous crew (Vladimir Titov, Musa Manarov, and Valeri Polyakov) remained on Mir for another 25 days, marking the longest period a six-person crew had been in orbit. After the previous crew returned to Earth, Krikalev, Polyakov, and Volkov continued to conduct experiments aboard the Mir station. Because arrival of the next crew had been delayed, they prepared the Mir for a period of unmanned operations before returning to Earth on April 27, 1989.

In April 1990, Krikalev began preparing for his second flight as a member of the backup crew for the eighth long-duration Mir mission, which also included five EVAs and a week of Soviet-Japanese operations. In December 1990, Krikalev began training for the ninth Mir mission which included training for ten EVAs. Soyuz TM-12 launched on May 19, 1991, with Krikalev as flight engineer, Commander Anatoly Artsebarsky, and British astronaut Helen Sharman. Sharman returned to Earth with the following crew after one week, while Krikalev and Artsebarsky remained on Mir. During the summer, they conducted six EVAs to perform a variety of experiments and some station maintenance tasks.

In July 1991, Krikalev agreed to stay on Mir as flight engineer for the next crew, scheduled to arrive in October because the next two planned flights had been reduced to one. The engineer slot on the Soyuz TM-13 flight on October 2, 1991, was filled by Toktar Aubakirov, an astronaut from the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, who had not been trained for a long-duration mission. Both he and Franz Viehböck, the first Austrian astronaut, returned with Artsebarsky on 10 October 1991. Commander Alexander Volkov remained on board with Krikalev. After the crew replacement in October, Volkov and Krikalev continued Mir experiment operations and conducted another EVA before returning to Earth on March 25, 1992.

Krikalev was in space when the Soviet Union was dissolved on December 26, 1991. These events are documented and contextualized in Romanian filmmaker Andrei Ujică's groundbreaking 1995 documentary Out of the Present. A fictional account of how Krikalev may have felt about this is described in the song Casiopea, written by Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodríguez.

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