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[Interview] Vladimir Dzhanibekov, member of the Russian Academy of Science
Dambaru Ballab Kattel (Dambaru)
Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Aleksandrovich Dzhanibekov, 65, is distinguished for having traveled five times in space, each for a different research objective. In total he spent 145 days, 15 hours and 56 minutes in space.
The research and findings of Dzhanibekov and his teams are important in geology, biodiversity, physical science, chemistry and medical science. They had previously researched other areas, mainly photography, crystallography, the nervous system, robotics, construction, etc.
He is also a member of the Russian Academy of Science. I thought it would be interesting to read about his experiences and personal life and took advantage of an opportunity to interview him for the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, NAST Science and Technology television program a few months ago when he was in Kathmandu.
Dambaru Ballab Kattel: Please introduce yourself.
Vladimir Dzhanibekov: I was born in Uzbekistan. My father was a fireman, and you know what that means -- being ready to deploy 24/7 in any weather conditions and emergency situation to help people in a fire. My mother was an operating theater nurse. She was a dear, taking care of my younger brother and me.
Did you aspire to be a cosmonaut?
I dreamt about flying in space, imagining what carrying out different tasks would be like. I was under a lot of stress, not knowing what I'd being doing in the future. I couldn't match my friends in sports or gymnastics and feared being the weak son of a strong father.
When did you start your space career?
Yuri Gagarin went into space in 1961, making history, which is when I decided to stop studying physics at university and shifted to pilot school. After training I piloted supersonic fighters and bombers. At the time I joined a cosmonaut training group there were many volunteers, each dreaming about space. Before that, during my five years' military service, I had become certified as a pilot instructor.
One problem was my weight -- 10 kg (22 pounds) too much! I first went to hospital, where therapists helped me reduce. For a week I consumed only water and was able to down my weight to 75 kg (165 pounds) from 85 (187).
In our training groups we had 1,011 volunteers from 11 countries. I was one of those selected. In our groups there were eight members each.
How do you see yourself and the universe?
I am interested in more than the structure of the universe. My questions are not only about our origins but why? What was the purpose of the creator? Why did he/she make us so crazy? My birth is of no real benefit to nature or the environment, so what is expected from us -- something extremely important for the future? Again I say we are crazy because we only learn how to take from nature, not to give back.
At first, on reaching outer space, what did you see, think and remember?
The first was the sunrise, because our first flight was launched at night. There were beautiful stars throughout the sky at night, but sunrise -- I saw more than the extreme beauty of the colors -- something very special and thought-provoking, I can't describe it in my own words. Not only I but almost all cosmonauts reported seeing the same thing -- the Earth with no borders and wondering what the Earth's peoples were doing.
In your five space journeys, what did you find?
That I know now what I need and what I don't need. I don't need much -- a little bread and protein. I also need to be free to change my way of thinking and to take action to make the world a better place.
What were some concrete results?
The best thing I brought back from space was a new type of cotton -- long-fibered, very strong -- a new generation of cotton. That was my best practical result, which is a boon for the textile industries.
What would you want to say about space pollution?
It is a big problem for everyone, especially engineers and other specialists.
Your most memorable moment?
Oh! During my fifth flight on Soyuz T-13 after we connected all the batteries and switched on the lamps and fans. [In the summer of 1985, Viktor Savinykh and Vladimir Dzhanibekov traveled to the Salyut 7 station to repair a solar array problem. The mission is widely held to be one of the greatest in-space repair missions to date. --Ed.] It was something outstanding, and we did it! It was a great time in our life to be able to prove that man in space can do the same as the ground-based specialist in connecting the space station, because engineers didn't believe this to be possible.
What would you want to say about the International Space Station (ISS)?
The ISS is a basic platform for research, whose different components have been designed and are to be maintained by different nations. It's been designed for a 15-year life. We are actively participating in developing interest in it and pressuring Russian researchers to work in space through the ISS. Because NASA is losing interest year by year in the ISS, this has put us in the leading position.
Right now -- in space -- what would you like to say?
I want to say to save our planet -- it is our own home -- make it more beautiful and more comfortable.
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