Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

American in Space Finds Life with Russians 'Alien' Astronaut Tires of Speaking Russian and Too Many Meals of Jellied Fish

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

American in Space Finds Life with Russians 'Alien' Astronaut Tires of Speaking Russian and Too Many Meals of Jellied Fish

Article excerpt

AFTER 106 days in space with two Russian companions, Russian food, and mostly Russian equipment, American astronaut Norman Thagard has a new perspective on the planned international space station. He says one of its biggest challenges will be avoiding cultural isolation.

Dr. Thagard said that he and his crewmates - Vladimir Dezhurov and Gennady Strekalov - got along well and worked together effectively on Russia's Mir space station. Yet he told a space-to-Earth press conference that, at times, he felt somewhat lost in an alien world. He noted, for example, that he sometimes went 72 hours without speaking English and tired of Russian space food - especially Mir's staple of jellied fish.

He said that he knew he could do anything for three months, and he did. But he said he wasn't sure he would have made it if he "had been looking at six months."

For their part, Russian cosmonauts working at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and on the space shuttles, have also noted difficulties adapting to the "strange" American culture. Language differences are a challenge to them as well.

Lessons learned in coping with the differences are among the dividends that will be brought back to Earth when the shuttle lands in Florida on July 7.

'Cosmic ballet'

With a small Russian space probe taking pictures and video from nearby, Atlantis undocked from Mir on July 4 after a five-day linkup. The shuttle then floated around the space station in what Atlantis pilot Robert "Hoot" Gibson called a "cosmic ballet."

The shuttle has now entered a new orbit where the eight-member astronaut-cosmonaut crew will carry out experiments in the Spacelab mounted in the cargo bay. And the new Mir crew is settling in for a two-month duty tour.

The interaction of Dezhurov, Strekalov, and Thagard has provided a unique space flight experience for both countries. Russians are used to having foreigners on board their space stations. Visitors have included a variety of European and Asian nationals. …

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