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  • Writer's pictureAeryn Avilla

The Rockets' Red Glare: Interkosmos and the Eastern Bloc

Updated: May 17, 2023

Interkosmos was a Soviet space program that consisted of both manned and unmanned missions designed to help Soviet allies and other states achieve spaceflight. It began in April of 1967 with the first crewed flight occurring in February of 1978. Participating states included those of the Warsaw Pact, CoMEcon, socialist states, Pro-Soviet states, and other western European capitalists states that also had partnerships with the United States.

Latin alphabet Interkosmos logo

Interkosmos insignia with the Latin alphabet (Public Domain)

After the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project brought about the end of the Space Race in 1975, there were plans between NASA and the Soviet space program to fly American Space Shuttle missions to the Soviet Salyut space station. Later talks in the 1980s supported Soviet Buran flights to a US space station, likely Space Station Freedom, which was still being developed at the time. Neither of these plans actually happened during the Interkosmos program but after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the Shuttle-Mir program [1] began. This influenced the International Space Station and the ride-sharing programs still in effect today.

Between 1978 and 1991, seventeen non-Soviet cosmonauts flew Soyuz missions to the Salyut 6, Salyut 7, and Mir space stations. The first nine missions visited Salyut 6 with the following two visiting Salyut 7 and the remaining seven visiting Mir. The program sent the first southeast Asian person, the first black and hispanic person, and the first citizen of a country other than the US or USSR into space; Pham Tuân of Vietnam, Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez of Cuba, and Vladimir Remek of Czechoslovakia, respectively. An offer was made to Finland to fly one of its pilots but the country refused to participate on the grounds such a flight would not benefit its fighter and test pilots. The international members of Interkosmos were referred to as "research cosmonauts". This is a long post so feel free to jump to specific countries by clicking on the names below.

Czechoslovakia — Soyuz 28 — March 1978

The first country to participate in the manned Interkosmos flights was Czechoslovakia. It was the fourth mission to Salyut 6 and the third successful docking. The mission's research cosmonaut was Vladimir Remek, who became not only the first Czechoslovakian but the first non-US or USSR citizen to fly in space. He later served as the Czech Ambassador to Russia The commander was Aleksei Gubarev. They launched on March 2, 1978 in their spacecraft called Zenit (Zenith). Gubarev flew with Soyuz 26 crew member and Salyut 6 resident Georgy Grechko on Soyuz 17 [2]. The mission also coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Soviet-backed 1948 Chezchoslovack coup d'etat in which the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia assumed control over the country's government— the biggest factor in deciding Remek should fly on Soyuz 28. Despite the large political factors of his mission, Remek also performed a number of science experiments, such as the growth of chlorella algae in microgravity and the measuring of oxygen in human tissue called the Oxymeter experiment. He also used the onboard Splav furnace to melt glass, lead, silver, and copper. The crew undocked and landed in Kazakhstan on March 10 and their capsule is now on display at the Kbely Aviation Museum in Prague, Czech Republic.

Soyuz 28 cosmonauts Aleksei Gubarev and Vladimir Remek (Czechoslovakia)

Aleksei Gubarev and Vladimir Remek (

Poland — Soyuz 30 — June/July 1978

Soyuz 30 was the sixth mission to Salyut 6 and the fifth successful docking. The research pilot was Mirosław Hermaszewski, the first and only Polish cosmonaut. Now a retired Brigadier General of the Polish Air Force, Hermaszewski is also a survivor of the Volhynian slaughter, an ethnic cleansing of Jews and Poles in German-occupied Poland by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during World War II. He was joined by commander Pyotr Klimuk on his spaceflight. They launched in their Soyuz spacecraft named Kavkaz (Caucasus) on June 27. Their activities were severely restricted as to not interfere with the onboard resident crew. In fact, they had to stay in their cramped Soyuz capsule to perform their scheduled science experiments, which included the production of cadmium tellurium mercury semiconductors for the station's onboard infrared detectors through crystallization processes. Hermaszewski photographed Poland from orbit and filmed the Aurora Borealis. All four crew members participated in medical experiments, one of which measured lung capacity during exercise in pressure suits. They also took part in an experiment called Smak, which is the Polish word for "taste", to find out why some food tasted milder or worse in space. Klimuk and Hermaszewski returned to Earth on July 5. Their capsule is now on display at the Museum of Polish Military Technology in Warsaw, Poland.

Soyuz 30 cosmonauts Pyotr Klimuk and Mirosław Hermaszewski (Poland)

Pyotr Klimuk and Mirosław Hermaszewski (

German Democratic Republic — Soyuz 31 — August/September 1978

Soyuz 31 was the seventh mission to Salyut 6 and the sixth successful docking. Like Soyuz 30, they visited the long duration Soyuz 29 crew. The research pilot was Sigmund Jähn, the first German in space and the only from the GDR, also known as East Germany. After his mission, he headed the East German Army's Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow until German unification in 1990. Beginning in 1993 he worked as a consultant for the European Space Agency and was a founding member of the Association of Space Explorers in 1985. The mission's commander was Valery Bykovsky, who flew Vostok 5 in 1963. The spacecraft's callsign was Yastreb (Hawk), after Bykovsky's Vostok [3]. The crew launched on August 26 and brought the resident crew fresh onions, garlic, lemons, and apples. Flying an East German cosmonaut was significant because the station's MFK-6M camera was built in East Germany. Jähn performed a number of medical and biological experiments during his time in space, including one that tested sound and noise perception limits in humans. The Berolina experiment used the Splav furnace to make an ampoule [4] of the element bismuth. He also carried toy figures from Sandmännchen, an animated children's television show, to film material. However, it was deemed unsuitable for the public after he and fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Kovalyonok joked about character Sandmännchen marrying a toy of Masha, a Russian character. The crew swapped spacecraft with Soyuz 29 so the resident crew had a newer spacecraft to return in. Bykovsky and Jähn left the station and returned to Earth on September 3. The other crew came home in November after a record-setting 139 days in space.

Valery Bykovsky & Sigmund Jähn Soyuz 29 and 31 crews with Sandmännchen

Bulgaria — Soyuz 33 — April 1979

Soyuz 33 was the ninth mission to Salyut 6. The research cosmonaut was Georgi Ivanov, the first Bulgarian in space and former member of the National Assembly of Bulgaria. The commander was Nikolai Rukavishnikov who was the first civilian to command a Soviet spacecraft. Their callsign was Saturn and they launched on April 10, 1979. Soyuz 33 wound up being the shortest flight of the Interkosmos program: An engine failure forced the abortion of the mission before the crew could dock. This was the first failure of the Soyuz engine during orbital operations. As a matter of fact, Rukavishnikov's first mission, Soyuz 10, failed to dock with Salyut 1 in 1971. It was later found that the malfunction was caused by a pressure sensor in the combustion chamber shutting down the engine because it sensed normal combustion pressure was not reached. This feature was to prevent propellants from being pumped into a damage engine, which could cause an explosion. According to space historian James Oberg, Rukavishnikov could not sleep before returning to Earth because he kept thinking about the American novel Marooned written by Martin Caidin [5]. The crew endured 10 g's from a steep ballistic reentry. This was allegedly the second time a crew had to do so— the first being Vladimir Komarov, lone pilot of Soyuz 1, who had been killed. The Soyuz 33 crew was supposed to come back in the spacecraft already docked to the station so the station's resident crew had a new vehicle, but it was suspected the old craft had a faulty engine as well. Instead, the subsequent crewed flight was cancelled and an empty Soyuz with a redesigned engine was sent up. The capsule is now on display at the Bulgarian Museum of Aviation near Plovdiv.

Soyuz 33 cosmonauts Nikolai Rukavishnikov and Georgi Ivanov (Bulgaria)

Nikolai Rukavishnikov & Georgi Ivanov (

Hungary — Soyuz 36 — May/June 1980

Soyuz 36 was the eleventh mission to Salyut 6 and the ninth successful docking. The research pilot was Bertalan Farkas, the first Hungarian and the first Esperantist in space [6]. The commander was Valery Kubasov, who flew Apollo-Soyuz in 1975. The spacecraft's callsign was Orion and they launched on May 26. The mission was originally scheduled for June 5, 1979 but was cancelled due to the Soyuz 33 failure. It was also the second Soviet mission with a civilian commander. Like his fellow research pilots, Farkas performed a variety of experiments while in orbit, most at the request of the Hungarian government. One, called Pille, measured radiation doses received by the crew. Another three looked at the formation of interferon in human cells in a weightless environment [7]. The Hungarian press said Farkas adjusted to weightlessness quicker than the veteran Kubasov did. The two also photographed over 60% of the area of Hungary in space while an Antonov AN-30 aircraft filmed the same from an altitude of 4-5 miles (6.43 - 8.05 km). Before being swapped out with the long duration crew, their Soyuz was used to boost the station's orbit. Kubasov and Farkas left the station and returned home on June 3.

Soyuz 36 cosmonauts Bertalan Farkas (Hungary) and Valery Kubasov

Bertalan Farkas & Valery Kubasov - program should be spelled "Interkozmosz" in Hungarian (ESA)

Vietnam — Soyuz 37 — July 1980

Soyuz 37 was the thirteenth mission to Salyut 6 and the eleventh successful docking. The research cosmonaut was Pham Tuân, the first southeast Asian and Vietnamese person in space. He flew interceptor missions in a MiG-21 against the US in the Vietnam War. Tuân participated in Operation Linebacker II (the Christmas Bombings) in late December of 1972 when he reported to shoot down a USAF B-52 Stratofortress using air-to-air missiles. Although he was awarded generously, American records state all B-52s, including this one, were downed by surface-to-air missiles. The commander of Soyuz 37 was Viktor Gorbatko. The spacecraft's callsign was Terek after the Terek River and they launched on July 23. While in orbit, Tuân carried out a total of thirty experiments including materials processing, space medicine, and the growth of Vietnamese azolla water ferns with application to future closed-loop life support systems [8]. The medical experiments looked at the effects of microgravity on mental health, hearing, respiration, and a person's taste buds, just to name a few. Engineering studies were set up by Dr. Tran Haum Hoai of the State Research Center of Vietnam. While Tuân and other high-ranking Vietnamese officials thanked the Communist Party for the opportunity of sending a Vietnamese citizen into space, many viewed it as a waste of money: According to, there was a popular rhyme that went "We have no rice, we have no noodles, so why are you going into space, Mr. Tuân?" Like the previous missions, Soyuz 37 switched spacecraft with the resident station crew and came home on July 30 in Soyuz 36's capsule.

Soyuz 37 cosmonauts Viktor Gorbatko and Pham Tuân (Vietnam)

Viktor Gorbatko & Pham Tuân (

Cuba — Soyuz 38 — September 1980

Soyuz 38 was the fourteenth mission to Salyut 6 and the twelfth successful docking. The research pilot was Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, the first Cuban, Latin American, and person of African descent in space. He was also the first non-US citizen from the Western Hemisphere to fly. Since 1980, Méndez has been a Deputy in the Cuban National Assembly. The commander was Yuri Romanenko and the spacecraft's callsign was Taimyr after the Taymyr Peninsula in northern Russia. The crew launched on September 18 and docked to the space station in darkness. While in orbit, they conducted experiments focusing on space adaptation syndrome, also known as space sickness, its causes, and possible cures. One test in specific involved wearing adjustable shoes that placed a load on the arch of the foot for six hours a day. Another experiment was on the crystallization of sucrose in microgravity and was performed to benefit Cuba's sugar industry. Romanenko and Méndez returned to Earth the night of September 26. This landing was riskier than usual since it took place, like the crew's docking to Salyut, in the dark. Méndez's Sokol spacesuit is now on display at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba.

Soyuz 38 cosmonauts Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez (Cuba) and Yuri Romanenko

Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez & Yuri Romanenko (

Mongolia — Soyuz 39 — March 1981

Soyuz 39 was the fifteenth mission to Salyut 6 and the thirteenth successful docking. The research pilot was Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa, the first Mongolian in space and the second non-Russian Asian cosmonaut. From 2000 to 2004, he was the chief of staff of air defense for the Mongolian Armed Forces and the Defense Minister of Mongolia. From 2004 to 2008, he was a member of the State Great Khural, his country's parliament. Mongolia's contribution to this mission actually began in 1967, more than a decade prior to launch, when the president of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences attended a scientific conference in Moscow where the Interkosmos program was announced. The commander was Vladimir Dzhanibekov, who later commanded the Salyut 7 rescue mission Soyuz T-13 in 1985. The spacecraft Pamir (Pamirs) launched to the station on March 22. While in space, the crew performed about thirty experiments including installing cosmic ray detectors and using the Gologramma, or "hologram", apparatus to look at a viewing port that had been damaged by micrometeoroids. The Illyuminator, or "viewing port", experiment studied the degredation of the station's viewports. The Atmosphere, Horizon, and Terminator experiments looked at the characteristics of Earth's atmosphere while the Biosphere-Mon experiment studied features on Mongolia's surface in the interest of agriculture, geology, glaciology (the study of glaciers), and meteorology. They installed cosmic ray detectors onboard the station. Gürragchaa studied Mongolian from space during the last two days of the mission. The crew returned home on March 29.

Soyuz 39 cosmonauts Vladimir Dzhanibekov and Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa (Mongolia)

Vladimir Dzhanibekov & Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa (

Romania — Soyuz 40 — May 1981

Soyuz 40 was the sixteenth and final mission to Salyut 6 and fourteenth successful docking. The research pilot was Dumitru Prunariu, the first Romanian to fly in space. He was President of the Romanian Space Agency from 1998 to 2004 and was Chairman of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN COPUOS for two periods (February 2004-2006 and June 2010-2012). Prunariu also voiced the robot BURN-E in the Romanian-dubbed version of the Disney/Pixar movie WALL-E. The commander was Leonid Popov. Soyuz 40's spacecraft Dnieper was the last Soyuz 7K-T spacecraft to fly. It launched on May 14, 1981 and visited the final Salyut 6 crew. Prunariu and his crew carried out a twenty-two experiments and tested the station's orientation system. Astro sought to identify new forms of nuclear matter while Biodose studied Earth's magnetic field and its influence on living creature on the planet's surface. Other experiments named Reo, Capillary, Nanobalance, Myocradium, Immunity, Pneumatic, and Collar involved space medicine, biology, space technology, and materials processing. Like preceding Interkosmos missions, the research pilot observed his home country from orbit. The Soyuz 40 crew returned to Earth on May 22.

Soyuz 40 cosmonauts Leonid Popov and Dumitru Prunariu (Romania)

Leonid Popov & Dumitru Prunariu (

France — Soyuz T-6 — June 1982

Soyuz T-6 was the first Interkosmos mission to visit Salyut 7 and the first Interkosmos mission with a crew of three. The research pilot was Jean-Loup Chrétien, the first Frenchman in space. After flying two Soyuz missions, he participated in Buran pilot training before the program was cancelled in 1993. The following year, he was selected by NASA as part of Astronaut Group 15 and flew STS-86 Atlantis in 1997. His backup for Soyuz T-6 was Patrick Baudry, who went on to fly with NASA on STS-51-G in 1985 (Chrétien, in turn was his backup for his Shuttle mission) . The commander was Vladimir Dzhanibekov, who had flown Soyuz 39 the year before, and the flight engineer was Aleksandr Ivanchenkov. Following tradition [3] the spacecraft was named Pamir. They launched on June 24 and manually docked with the station since problems with the automatic docking system arose. Two of the experiments included echographs, or ultrasounds, and antibiotic experiments. The station's resident crew participated in these tests as well. They even let Chrétien eject a bag of waste into space— a weekly procedure. The Soyuz T-6 crew returned to Earth on July 2.

Soyuz T-6 cosmonauts Aleksandr Ivanchenkov, Vladimir Dzhanibekov, and Jean-Loup Chrétien (France)

Aleksandr Ivanchenkov, Vladimir Dzhanibekov, & Jean-Loup Chrétien (

India — Soyuz T-11 — April 1984

Soyuz T-11 was the sixth flight to Salyut 7. The research pilot was Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian in space. To this day, he is the only Indian citizen to have flown in space: The first woman of Indian descent to fly, Kalpana Chawla, perished during the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. Sharma later worked for Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The commander was Yuri Malyshev and the flight engineer was Gennady Strekalov. The spacecraft's callsign was Jupiter and carried the crew into space on April 3. The crew performed forty-three experiments while in orbit pertaining to the fields of biomedicine, remote sensing, life sciences, and materials processing. One of these materials processing included the fusion of silicium. Like other Interkosmos research pilots, his Earth observation focused heavily on his home country of India. He is also reported to have practiced yoga while on Salyut in an effort to cope with the physical and psychological effects of spaceflight. The T-11 crew had a joint TV news conference first with officials in Moscow and then with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. When the Prime Minister asked how India looked from space, Sharma replied, "Sare jahan se accha." This translates to "the best in the world" and is the title of a patriotic poem written when India was under British colonial rule.

Soyuz T-11 cosmonauts Gennady Strekalov, Rakesh Sharma (India), and Yuri Malyshev

Gennady Strekalov, Rakesh Sharma, & Yuri Malyshev (

Syria — Soyuz TM-3 — July 1987

Soyuz TM-3 was the third mission overall and first Interkosmos mission to Mir and carried research pilot Muhammed Faris, the first and only Syrian in space and the second Arab [9]. He was appointed Defense Minister of the Syrian Interim Government in 2017. The commander was rookie Aleksandr Viktorenko and the flight engineer was Aleksandr Pavlovich Aleksandrov. The crew and Vityaz (Knight) launched on July 22. Faris is credited with carrying the first recorded Earth dirt into space, which was soil from Damascus. The Euphrates experiment, named after the river that flows through Syria, focused on observing the country from orbit and collecting data on its agricultural resources. Another experiment called Svetlana isolated microorganisms that produce antibodies for use in stock farming. Others consisted of materials processing and biological tests. Faris and Viktorenko returned to Earth a week later with Aleksandr Laveykin in Soyuz TM-2 [10].

Soyuz TM-3 cosmonauts Muhammed Faris (Syria), Aleksandr Viktorenko, & Aleksandr Aleksandrov

Muhammed Faris, Aleksandr Viktorenko, & Aleksandr Aleksandrov (

Bulgaria — Soyuz TM-5 — June 1988

Soyuz TM-5 was the fifth mission to Mir. The research pilot was Aleksandr Aleksandrov (no, not the flight engineer from the previous mission) who became the second Bulgarian in space and the first to visit a station— Soyuz 33, carrying the first Bulgarian into space, failed to dock with Salyut 6. He later became Deputy Director of the Institute of Space Research at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The commander was rookie Anatoly Solovyev and the flight engineer was Viktor Savinykh. The spacecraft's callsign was Rodnik (Spring) and it and its crew launched on June 7. This was two weeks earlier than initially anticipated due to improved lighting conditions for the Rozhen astronomical experiment. Other experiments included Black Sea and Bulgarian observation from orbit, materials processing, biology, and medicine. Aleksandrov returned home with the crew and spacecraft of Soyuz TM-4. Due to a software problem onboard Soyuz, the landing was delayed by a full day. Unfortunately, they had already undocked with Mir and could not redock since the docking system had been jettisoned. Even worse, the orbital module containing their sanitary facilities was also discarded prior to the issue.

Soyuz TM-5 cosmonauts Viktor Savinykh, Anatoly Solovyev, & Aleksandr Aleksandrov (Bulgaria)

Viktor Savinykh, Anatoly Solovyev, & Aleksandr Aleksandrov (

Afghanistan — Soyuz TM-6 — August/September 1988

Soyuz TM-6 was the sixth mission to Mir. The research pilot was Abdul Ahad Mohmand, the first and only Afghani in space. He was chosen as prime cosmonaut for this mission after Mohammad Dawran, a higher-ranking pilot with more political connections, was diagnosed with appendicitis. Mohmand's inclusion in a space mission was a significant symbol during the ongoing Soviet-Afghan War. During the mission, Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah arranged a video conference between Mohmand and his mother in which they spoke the Eastern Iranian language Pashto. The commander of Soyuz TM-6 was Vladimir Lyakhov, who was trained to fly a Soyuz-TM spacecraft solo to rescue cosmonauts from Mir. Instead of a flight engineer, the mission had a research doctor named Valeri Polyakov. He currently holds the record for the longest single spaceflight in history of 437 days. Soyuz TM-6's callsign was Proton and launched on August 29, 1988. During his nine days on Mir, Mohmand participated in astrophysical, biological, and medical experiments and took photographs of Afghanistan from orbit. He also spoke with President Najibullah and brewed Afghan tea for himself and his crew. Lyakhov and Mohmand returned to Earth in the Soyuz TM-5 spacecraft.

Soyuz TM-6 cosmonauts Abdul Ahad Mohmand (Afghanistan), Vladimir Lyakhov, & Valeri Polyakov

Abdul Ahad Mohmand, Vladimir Lyakhov, & Valeri Polyakov (

France — Soyuz TM-7 — November/December 1988

Soyuz TM-7 was the seventh mission to Mir and research pilot Jean-Loup Chrétien's second spaceflight (his first was Soyuz T-6). This time, he was participating in the 24-day French mission known as Mir Aragatz [11]. The commander was Aleksandr Volkov and the flight engineer was Sergei Krikalev. The vehicle's callsing was Donbass. The mission was originally supposed to launch on November 21, 1988 but was pushed back to November 26 to let French president François Mitterrand to view it. David Gilmour and Nick Mason of the band Pink Floyd were also in attendance— the crew took a tape of their newly recorded live album Delicate Sound of Thunder to play while in orbit. Chrétien performed the first EVA of a non-Soviet and non-American on December 9. He and Volkov installed handrails and the Échantillons experiment rack, which housed five technological experiments for the Hermes shuttle program [12]. They also assembled the ERA, an experimental deployable structure. Chrétien came home on Soyuz TM-6 while Volkov and Krikalev stayed onboard the station on December 21.

Soyuz TM-7 cosmonauts Jean-Loup Chrétien (France), Aleksandr Volkov, & Sergei Krikalev

Jean-Loup Chrétien, Aleksandr Volkov, & Sergei Krikalev (

Japan — Soyuz TM-11 — December 1990

Soyuz TM-11 was the eleventh mission to Mir. The research pilot was Toyohiro Akiyama, a reporter for the Japanese TV network Tokyo Broadcasting System and the first Japanese person in space. After his spaceflight, he took up organic farming in the Abukuma mountains near Fukushima but was forced to abandon his farm after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. Because the network paid for his flight, the Soviet Union called this mission their first commercial spaceflight. The commander was Viktor Afanasyev and the flight engineer was Musa Manarov. The spacecraft's callsign was Derbent and launched on December 2, 1990, the same day as the American STS-35. The vehicle's launch shroud and booster were painted with the Japanese flag and advertisements for the companies Sony, Unicharm, and Otsuka Pharmaceutical. Akiyama made one 10-minute TV broadcast and two 20-minute radio broadcasts each day. Since his broadcasting equipment weighed about 375 lbs (170 kg), it was delivered to the station by a Progress-M spacecraft beforehand. One particular experiment of studying frogs; behavior in microgravity was for Japanese schoolchildren. Akiyama experienced symptoms of space motion sickness emphasized by nicotine withdrawal (he is said to have smoked four packs of cigarettes a day). During his return on Soyuz TM-10 on December 8, the Tokyo Broadcasting System broadcasted his landing live from Kazakhstan. Afanasyev and Manarov stayed on Mir.

Soyuz TM-11 cosmonauts Toyohiro Akiyama (Japan), Viktor Afanasyev, & Musa Manarov (Azerbaijan)

Toyohiro Akiyama, Viktor Afanasyev, & Musa Manarov (

United Kingdom — Soyuz TM-12 — May 1991

Soyuz TM-12 was the twelfth mission to Mir. Research pilot Helen Sharman became the first Briton in space and was part of Project Juno, a privately-funded project that chose her to fly. Corporate sponsors of the project included British Aerospace, Memorex, and Interflora. However, the sponsors and the accompanying lottery system failed to reach the mission's price of £7 million ($809 million). Instead of cancelling the flight, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev directed the space program cover the rest of the cost. Sharman was the only woman to fly in space as part of Interkosmos and the first woman to visit Mir [13]. At the time of her selection, she worked on the flavor properties of chocolate for Mars, the company that makes candy including M&Ms and Twix bars. Since her mission, she has been part of numerous space and science groups and even appeared as herself in an episode of the soap opera Hollyoaks. The commander of Soyuz TM-12 was Anatoly Artsebarsky and the flight engineer was Soyuz TM-7's Sergei Krikalev. The crew and their spacecraft Ozon (Ozone) launched on May 18, 1991. Sharman's experimental program was designed by the Soviets and focused on life sciences, taking advantage of Sharman's background in chemistry. For one of these experiments, she placed a bag of 250,000 pansy seeds in the Kvant-2 airlock to study how they are effected by cosmic radiation. She also contacted nine British schools by radio and performed high-temperature superconductor experiments. Sharman returned to Earth on Soyuz TM-11.

Soyuz TM-12 cosmonauts Anatoly Artsebarsky, Helen Sharman (Britain), and Sergei Krikalev

Anatoly Artsebarsky, Helen Sharman, & Sergei Krikalev (

Austria — Soyuz TM-13 — October 1991

Austria was the last country to participate in the manned Interkosmos flights. Soyuz TM-13 was the thirteenth mission to Mir and carried Franz Viehnöck, the first Austrian in space. He was called "Austronaut" by his country's news agencies and currently works for Boeing in his home country. The Austrian government paid $7 million to fly Viehnöck on the Soviet-Austria project Austromir 91. The commander was Alexandr Volkov of Soyuz TM-7 and research cosmonaut #1 was Toktar Aubakirov, the first person from the soon-to-be independent Kazakhstan to fly in space. He flew partly in an effort to encourage the Kazakhstan government to continue permitting launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is located not in Russia like some assume but in the desert steppe of Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The spacecraft's callsign was Donbass, after Volkov's previous commanding mission [3]. Soyuz TM-13 launched on October 2, 1991 and was attended by Soviet Premier Ivan Silaev, President of the Kazakh SSR Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Chancellor of Austria Franz Vranitzky. Aubakirov and Viehnöck photographed their respective countries from orbit and performed materials processing, physics, space technology, and medical experiments. Viehnöck and Aubakirov returned to Earth with commander Artsebarsky of Soyuz TM-12. This mission was the last of the Soviet space program: The USSR collapsed two months later on December 26, 1991.

Soyuz TM-13 cosmonauts Toktar Aubakirov (Kazakhstan), Aleksandr Volkov, & Franz Viehnöck (Austria)

Toktar Aubakirov, Aleksandr Volkov, & Franz Viehnöck (

The Interkosmos Program gave multiple nations access to crewed spaceflight. Some countries never flew another citizen while others, such as France and Japan, are now home to a number of space travelers. Interkosmos, along with the American Shuttle-Mir Program and the Russian EuroMir, paved the way for the International Space Station and other international space-related partnerships.

Author's note: As always, thanks for reading and be sure to like, comment, and share this post!

[1] Shuttle-Mir lasted from 1994 to 1998.

[2] The Soyuz 26 crew would break the US endurance record by spending 96 days in space— 12 more than Skylab 4's 84.

[3] It was tradition for commanding cosmonauts to name their spacecraft the same. For example, Voskhod 1's commander Vladimir Komarov named both his Voskhod 1 and Soyuz 1 spacecraft Rubin (Ruby).

[4] An ampoule is a sealed glass container containing a liquid.

[5] It is better remembered as a 1969 film about three astronauts stranded in their Apollo spacecraft after a visit to a space station.

[6] An Esperantist is someone who speaks the international auxiliary language Esperanto.

[7] Interferons are signaling proteins that are released when the body detects the presence of a virus.

[8] A closed-loop life support system is one that does not receive consumables from an external source, like a resupply capsule.

[9] The first Arab person in space was Sultan ibn Salam Al Saud from Saudi Arabia. He also became the first Muslim and the first member of a royal family in space when he flew on NASA's STS-51-G in 1985.

[10] Yes, there were three different cosmonauts named "Alexandr" onboard Mir at the same time

[11] Aragatz might be referring to Mount Aragats in Armenia.

[12] Hermes was a French crewed spaceplane proposal that ended in 1992.

[13] NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid flew to the station in 1996.



  • Becker, Joachim. “Spaceflights.” Manned Spaceflights,

  • “Intercosmos.” Encyclopædia Britannica,

  • Matignon, Louis de Gouyon. “Interkosmos.” Space Legal Issues, 5 Apr. 2019,

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Anton Johnson
Anton Johnson
Nov 26, 2021

Outstanding summary of several missions and very enjoyable too. Thank you for doing the research.


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