Veteran Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, 3 others resigning
At least four Russian cosmonauts, including veteran spacefarer Gennady Padalka, are set to leave the Russian cosmonaut corps either by free will or because of health reasons, according to a report from the Russian government news agency Tass.
Padalka, along with Sergey Volkov, Alexander Samokutyaev, and Sergey Revin, will be leaving the Russian cosmonaut corps. Padalka submitted his resignation voluntarily while the other three were removed due to medical reasons.
“The inter-departmental commission for the selection of cosmonauts and their assignment to the crews of manned spacecraft and stations made a decision at its April 21 session to recommend the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center to relieve Sergey Volkov of the duties of a 1st class test-cosmonaut and cosmonaut-instructor of the cosmonaut team, Alexander Samokutyaev[,] of the duties of a test-cosmonaut and cosmonaut-instructor and deputy commander of the cosmonaut team and Sergey Revin of the duties of a 3rd class test-cosmonaut of the cosmonaut group,” Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center’s press office said in a statement obtained by Tass.
Volkov, 44, flew to space three times between 2008 and 2016. He has spent a total of 547 days in orbit, all aboard the International Space Station (ISS). During those flights, he performed four spacewalks for a total of 23 hours, 26 minutes.
Samokutyaev, 47, flew on two missions, one in 2011 and again 2014. His total flight time was 331 days with two spacewalks. Revin, 51, made a flight in 2012, spending 125 days in space.
Padalka, 58, will step down on April 28, 2017. The Russian Air Force Colonel had spent more than 878 days in space over five missions between 1998 and 2015.
Padalka’s first flight was one of the last to the Russian Mir space station. After he returned to Earth, he was awarded Hero of the Russian Federation, the highest honorary title in Russia.
The most experienced cosmonaut’s other four flights were to the ISS. Padalka was expected to fly back to the International Space Station in 2018 in order to become the first person to cross 1,000 days spent orbiting Earth.
According to Russia Today, Padalka said that he resigned because he only had a small chance to actually fly on that mission.
“I had to resign,” Padalka told Tass. “I am tired of doing nothing. There are no prospects that I will fly [to the International Space Station].”
Padalka was expected fly aboard Soyuz MS-10 for a six-month flight to the ISS between September 2018 and March 2019. It is unclear whether he was told he would be removed from the flight or, if he was, why.
Late in 2016, Roscosmos said that it was going to start reducing its station crew size from three to two in order to save money to launch the decade-delayed Nauka science module. The module has had various warranty and quality control issues prompting it to stay grounded year after year. The most recent estimate for launch was sometime in 2018.
The first flight with the reduced Russian crew occurred on April 20, 2017, with the launch of Soyuz MS-04. Only a single cosmonaut, Fyodor Yurchikhin, flew alongside American Jack Fischer.
Soyuz MS-10 was expected to be the first flight to increase the number of cosmonauts at the outpost back to three. However, if Nauka is delayed longer, as has been suggested by Tass, Roscosmos has stated it will continue to staff the Russian segment with only two cosmonauts.
Sergey Krikalev, who previously held the title for most time spent in space at 803 days, said that he regretted Padalka’s decision to resign.
“I feel deeply sorry [over the fact] that such a highly skilled, experienced and highly motivated man is resigning from the corps,” he told RIA Novosti.
This leaves 27 cosmonauts on the corps, 13 of whom have no experience in space, according to Tass.
On April 27, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that this current downsizing is a planned measure to renew the corps for prospects after 2024, the current end of mission date for the ISS.
“[The reduction] is due to the need to bring in younger members as the average age in the team is 53 years,” Rogozin said.
According to Yuri Lonchakov, the Cosmonaut Training Center Head Pilot-Cosmonaut, changes in the cosmonaut corp, just like those in an organism’s body, occur and will occur all the time.
“Sooner or later, cosmonauts have to quit the team,” Lonchakov told Tass. “Someone has to do this due to a change in his life priorities while someone else has to quit for health reasons. No matter how deplorable this may be, this is quite a natural process.”
Lonchakov said that while cosmonauts may leave the corps, they frequently continue to work at the Cosmonaut Training Center to share experiences with younger members. Moreover, Roscosmos recently announced that the state corporation was looking for more cosmonaut candidates.
This will be the 17th cosmonaut recruitment round. The last one occurred in 2012 and was open to everybody. Eight cosmonaut candidates were chosen, six of whom are still in the current corps.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.