Yelena Kondakova: woman feels fine in orbit
April 12 will mark 50 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Of the more than 500 hundred people who have flown into space after Gagarin, only 50 are women. Yelena Kondakova is one of them. The world’s third female cosmonaut and the first woman to spend five consecutive months in orbit, she was also the first one to fly both aboard a Russian spaceship and an American shuttle. Today, she is a member of parliament.
"I picked a winning lottery ticket," Yelena said in a Voice of Russia interview.
She was indeed lucky to fly in space twice and both times her husband, cosmonaut Valery Ryumin refused to let her go, but eventually caved in because he knew Yelena would never forgive him.
It has been proven that the effects of zero gravity on men and women are more or less similar. There once was an experiment at the Institute of Medico-Biological Problems where long-term space flights are simulated. A group of men were asked to do things that were supposed to make their female partner lose her temper. The result was just the opposite. The men were beside themselves with fury, while the woman not only retained her self-control but was even trying to calm the men. Yelena says she never had any biological or psychological problems while in orbit:
"Woman feels fine in space. She needn’t do housework or shopping or look after her children – perfect comfort. But leaving the jokes aside, it has long been noticed that women find it easier to adapt themselves to stressful conditions. I felt psychologically comfortable in orbit because I had excellent partners – Alexander Viktorenko and Valery Polyakov. We understood each other from a half-word. They helped me a lot, trying to make things easier for me. Everything was just fine. When I returned to Earth, I said I wanted to fly back."
But luck was on Yelena`s side. In May of 1997 she made her second spaceflight aboard the US shuttle Atlantis. That expedition then earned her a medal from NASA. Yelena says that traveling to the orbit inside US shuttles was more difficult than aboard Russian spacecraft:
"We all remember the disaster of US shuttle Challenger in 1986. Unlike Russian spacecraft, American ones lacked reliable rescue system. Our astronauts also did go through very risky situations but life-saving equipment at Soyuz capsules was very good. It helped Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov survive an accident during a spaceflight in 1983."
Nowadays, when Russian and US experts on space exploration discuss possibilities of joint Mars missions, and space journeys are likely to become as usual as traveling by plane, Yelena Kondakova notes that participation of women in space exploration is more important than it may seem at first sight.