Russian Cosmonauts visit Coventry on 8th March 1999
Two Russian cosmonauts Alexander Martynov and Alexander Volkov entertained an audience at the Coventry Technical College. The subjects included ranged from the first manned space flight by Uri Gagarin to living in micro gravity aboard the space station Mir.
Alexander Martynov spoke for a time about the launch of the first man in space before discussing the specifics about the different rockets that launch the cosmonauts in to space. The space station Mir we were told was 100 metres in length if all the modules were placed end to end. Mr Martynov went on to tell the audience that some of the experiments done aboard Mir could not be done so easy here on earth, growing crystals was one of the experiments cited. Crystals grown in space are a lot purer than those grown on earth.
Alexander Volkov has served aboard Mir leading a team of Russian-French cosmonauts. The film which was shown shows that the life aboard Mir is sometimes hazardous as well as arduous. Everyday those aboard Mir must exercise for a minimum of 1 hour jogging (about 15 kilometres) on a treadmill to help prevent bone and muscle wastage. The audience was then treated to some spectacular footage of the Earth form the Mir space station. The average day for a cosmonaut aboard the Mir starts at 08.00am Moscow time and finishes at around midnight.
After the talks the two cosmonauts invited questions, two of which stand out. The first being can mankind procreate in space ? This seemed to throw Mr Martynov who was acting as interpreter until I said "sex in space". Mr Volkov spoke at length after the question was translated to him, were upon Mr Martynov translating in to english simply said "difficult" to the great amusement of the crowd. The second question was, is there any one thing that stands out in your mind ? After a moments thought Mr Volkov said yes going for his first space walk, standing in the hatchway looking down at the earth he gripped part of the space station (he gestured gripping his hands and smiling) tightly not wanting to let go but soon lost his fear as the excitement took over.
Mr Martynov explained that the Americans spent millions of US dollars developing a pen that would write in space, while the Russians took a pencil. He also stated that it cost more for the space shuttle to fly and be serviced than it does for the Proton rocket to be used once and then thrown away.
The questions came to an end with book and special envelope signing. Cosmonauts Martynov and Volkov are on a country wide tour and only after the show was the audience told that this was there fourth talk of the day. Earlier they had entertained some 2,000 school children.
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