Pontian Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin Goes to Space for Fifth Time

Photo: Rob Navias/NASA

Roscosmos cosmonaut of Pontian origin Fyodor Yurchikhin goes to space for the fifth time as a Soyuz rocket was launched on Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft is in orbit bound for the International Space Station. It will be the latest in a routine series of missions, flying four times a year, carrying new crews to the space station.

The particular mission is a little different because on board of the spacecraft will be NASA astronaut Jack Fisher and Roscosmos cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and the third seat will be empty. According to The Space Review, Roscosmos is to decrease the size of the Russian crew, temporarily, from three to two as it awaits the long-delayed launch of new modules for the station’s Russian segment.

The 58-year-old Yurchikhin and Fisher are expected to arrive at the ISS after a six-hour voyage and remain there for 135 days under the command of American cosmonaut Peggy Whitson. Yurchikhin on Saturday will receive at ISS the cargo of the Cygnus vessel of the privately owned U.S. space-based company Orbital ATK, which carries two Greek-made microsatellites.

The Pontian cosmonaut has been honored with the highest distinction of “Hero” of the Russian Federation and the Order of the Phoenix of the Hellenic Republic. This is his fifth space trip and the fourth in the ISS.

Yurchikhin was born in 1959 in Batumi, Georgia, of Pontian parents, and visits Greece often. He studied Mechanical Engineering specializing in space projects and later received a PhD in Economics from the University of Moscow. He has worked for Russian space company Energia, he was chief engineer in the Space Shuttle space program, and in 2002 he made his first 10-day trip to space as a cosmonaut and a member of the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis.

In 2007, he stayed at the ISS for 196 days, during which he made three space walks. In 2010 he made his third flight to space, again at ISS, and during his 163-day stay he made two more space walks. His fourth space voyage was in 2013, when he was the commander of the mission to the ISS and also remained in space for 163 days.

To date, he has “walked” in space nearly 52 hours, occupying the sixth place among all astronauts in the world. With a total of 537 days in space, he is now 13th on the world’s list of space astronauts, but when he returns to Earth on September 3 (along with Fisher and Whitson), he will be in seventh place.