In 2022, 60 years have passed since the first space flight of the first Ukrainian cosmonaut Pavlo Romanovych Popovych.
He was born in the town of Uzyn, Kyiv region on October 5, 1930. In 1954, he graduated from the military aviation school and became a fighter pilot. He had good physical fitness, engineering practice, and military education and training. When in 1959 he was offered to take part in important and dangerous flights, he agreed without hesitation. He was included in the first team of the cosmonaut team after a rigorous recruitment and selection process in March 1960.
The cosmonaut training program included general physical and psychological training, a complex of special tests and training, as well as the study of rocket and space technology basics, the design of the Vostok spacecraft, separate sections of astronomy, geophysics, and space medicine.
Special training included flights on airplanes in conditions of simulated weightlessness, tests in a centrifuge, a vibrating stand, and in a thermal chamber under conditions of high temperatures.
Part of the psychological training of cosmonauts was a long stay in an anechoic room - a soundproof room with artificial lighting. A person stays in complete solitude here and does not hear the sounds of the outside world, does not see the change of day and night, and this has a negative effect on their mental and physical condition. Pavlo Popovych passed the test in the anechoic room just fine. In his free time, he recited poems, danced, and sang, and so beautifully that doctors from other departments came to listen to him.
Pavlo Popovych passed all stages of preparation faultlessly and became one of the six candidates for the world's first space flight. However, his friend Yuri Gagarin became the first cosmonaut. And during Gagarin's flight on April 12, 1961, Pavlo Popovych was in the launch bunker together with the general designer S.P. Korolev, who allowed him to be in touch with Gagarin and support him emotionally as a friend.
Pavlo Popovych made his first space flight on August 12-15, 1962 on the Vostok-4 spacecraft. He became the fourth Soviet cosmonaut and a participant in the world's first group flight of crewed spacecraft, and also the first, which lasted several days. On August 11, a day before the launch of the Vostok-4 spacecraft, Vostok-3 with cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolayev took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. During this flight, the capsules were at a distance of 5-6 km from each other, and each pilot could see the spacecraft of the other. In this flight, the cosmonauts performed a wide program of scientific and technical, and medical and biological experiments. They drove spacecraft using a manual control system for the first time in history. Cosmonauts photographed each other's ships, carried out the first experiments on the first ship-to-ship communications in space. A new air conditioning system was tested, which made it possible to regulate the temperature in the cabin.
During this flight, the first video reports from orbit took place, which were broadcast on the USSR television and in the Intervision system. Moreover, during this flight, a Ukrainian song was heard in space for the first time! At the request of Serhiy Korolev, Pavlo Popovych performed "Watching the sky and thinking a thought".
A very important task of Nikolayev and Popovych's flight was to study the working capacity of a person during a long stay in a state of weightlessness. Cosmonaut No. 2 Gherman Titov felt nausea and a headache after six hours of flight - symptoms of a disorder of the vestibular apparatus due to the influence of weightlessness. After following the doctors' recommendations, his well-being improved, but his condition did not fully normalize. In order to avoid such problems in the future, the doctors adjusted the training methods of Nikolayev and Popovych, in particular, they included elements of the circus aerial gymnasts’ training. The results were successful. According to the program of experiments, Pavlo Popovych `"floated" in the spacecraft, made sharp movements, turns, without feeling any negative consequences. Based on the results of the observations, as well as the post-flight examinations of the cosmonauts, doctors made adjustments to the composition of products and the diet in space. In addition, they developed the first recommendations for doing certain exercises to prevent muscle atrophy during long flights.
Pavlo Popovych spent 2 days 22 hours 57 minutes in orbit and circled the Earth 48 times. After the first flight, he remained in the cosmonaut team and continued to prepare for new difficult tasks. In 1965, he was scheduled to fly together with the cosmonaut Valentina Ponomaryova on the Voskhod-4 spacecraft. In 1968, he was training for a flight on the Soyuz-3, which was supposed to dock with another spacecraft. Subsequently, he was part of the group of cosmonauts who were being prepared for a flyby of the moon. For various reasons, these flights did not take place. In 1968, Pavlo Popovych also studied at the engineering faculty of the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy, from which he graduated in 1968. In 1977, he defended his thesis for the degree of candidate of technical sciences.
In July 1974, Pavlo Popovych made his second space flight as the commander of the Soyuz-14 spacecraft and the Salyut-3 orbital station together with flight engineer Yuri Artyukhin. The flight lasted 15 days 17 hours 30 minutes. During this time, the crew carried out a large program of biological research and experiments in order to determine rational operational modes on board the station. Cosmonauts also studied geological and morphological objects of the earth's surface, atmospheric formations and phenomena, physical characteristics of outer space. Research was also carried out on behalf of the Soviet military-industrial complex.
In 1978-1989, Pavlo Popovych worked as the deputy head of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. In 1989, he headed the All-Union Research Center for the Creation of an Automated Information and Management System for Monitoring the State of the Country's Agricultural Resources, and in 1992-2001, he was the Director of the Russian Institute for Land and Ecosystem Monitoring.
Pavlo Romanovych never forgot about his native Ukraine, where he was born, where he spent his childhood and youth. He did not forget his native language and the Ukrainian song. He was the honorary chairman of the Ukrainian Culture Union in Moscow "Slavutych". He often came to Ukraine. An international youth boxing tournament was held in Bila Tserkva under the guidance of the cosmonaut. By the way, the Klitschko brothers also passed through it. Since 1999, Pavlo Popovych became the president of the Ukrainian Union of Cosmonauts, which included Heorhii Berehovyi (a native of Poltava region), Vitalii Zholobov (Kherson region), Heorhii Shonin (Luhansk region), Ihor Volk (Kharkiv region), Leonid Popov (Kirovohrad oblast) and others. In total, 20 people from Ukraine flew into space. In 1964-1988, P.R. Popovych was a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR. In 2005, Pavlo Popovych was awarded the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, 4th class, for helping to raise the authority of Ukraine in the world.
Pavlo Popovych visited Kyiv Polytechnic Institute several times. The last time was in January 2007, at the celebrations on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of S.P. Korolev, the practical cosmonautics founder, general designer, and a former student of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.
Kyiv polytechnicians honor the memory of the first Ukrainian cosmonaut. In 2008, our university held large-scale events to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the birth of Pavlo Popovych. He handed over several things, including the service coat of an aviation major general and many photographs to the Borys Paton State Polytechnic Museum at Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. There are a lot of his autobiographical books, and scientific and technological works in the scientific and technical library of Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute: "I fly out in the morning" (1968), "It could not be otherwise!" (1980), "Activity of a cosmonaut in flight and improvement of its efficiency" (1981, coauthored), "Experiments in space and on earth" (1982), "Space altitude to the profession" (1983), “Ergonomic management of the cosmonauts’ activity" (1985, coauthored), "Endless roads of the universe" (1986), "Ballistic design of space systems" (1987, coauthored), and others.
Recalling his flights into space, Pavlo Romanovych said: "Oh, how beautiful it is, our blue planet! I am convinced that no one loves and appreciates the Earth as much as we, cosmonauts." And in an interview with the Ukrainian magazine "Aviation and Time" in 2001, he noted: "If you carefully analyze, cosmonautics originates from Ukraine. Just look: Kybalchych, Kondratiuk, Korolev, Chelomei, Yangel, Hlushko... Ukrainians made a huge contribution to the development of world cosmonautics. And I'm Ukrainian, <...> and I'm proud of it." May these words of the first Ukrainian cosmonaut inspire future space explorers!