- One Strange Rock
How 879 Days of Spaceflight Changed This Cosmonaut
Over 17 years and five flights, Gennady Padalka has accumulated more time in orbit than any person, ever.
Moscow, RussiaIt’s not something I was expecting from the former military pilot, who is also among Russia’s most decorated cosmonauts. I pass the minutes by translating the names written in Cyrillic on the posters surrounding me in the Russian Academy of Science’s Space Research Institute: Venera, Lunokhod, RadioAstron—all programs the Russians engineered during their long and storied history of space exploration.
In the early days of the space race, the Soviets were clearly winning. They launched Sputnik, the first satellite, in 1957. And on April 12, 1961, they put the first human in orbit, when 27-year-old cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin climbed into his spherical spacecraft and took to the skies.
Though it only lasted 108 minutes, Gagarin’s mission proved