Why do astronauts watch «White Sun of the Desert» before launch?


Again, we answer the subscriber’s question:

Yes, this is true and at the moment it is an established tradition. This tradition arose in 1973 when the Soyuz-12 spacecraft was launched. As you know, the Soyuz-11 flight ended tragically. Cosomonauts Dobrovolsky, Volkov and Patsaev died on their return to Earth due to the depressurization of the descent vehicle.

To prevent such tragedies, special lightweight spacesuits were developed, which should have protected the crew in case of depressurization. But in spacesuits, three people no longer fit inside the descent vehicle. Therefore, the crew was reduced to two people.

On board Soyuz-12, crew commander V.G. Lazarev and flight engineer O.G. Makarov. One of the mission’s tasks was filming in space. In order to train the crew in the basics of camera work, they showed a film recently released on the screens of the film «White Sun of the Desert».

The flight of Soyuz-12 ended in success, and upon returning to Earth, the commander of the crew, Vasily Lazarev, said that the main character of the film, Comrade Sukhov, was like the third member of the crew for them. Since then, every Soviet and Russian crew going into space «for good luck» watches the «White Sun of the Desert» the day before departure. Since the time when astronauts from other countries began to send astronauts into space on the Russian Soyuz, the film has been shown with subtitles.

Watching this film has become a pre-flight tradition. There are other pre-flight traditions as well. For example, astronauts urinate on the back wheel of the bus that is taking them to the launch pad. This tradition goes back to the very first manned space flight. The first time this was done by Yuri Gagarin, though from purely practical reasons — so that nothing would distract in flight.

Another tradition is to leave signatures on the door of the hotel room in which the astronaut lives in preparation for the flight. So future astronauts can know who occupied their room in the past.

Also in the late 90s, a rather dubious tradition was born of the consecration of the rocket and the blessing of astronauts by an Orthodox priest.

American astronauts also have some pre-flight traditions, so Americans take a plush toy with them on the flight, which should hang in the cockpit at launch.

The toy serves as a mascot for the mission, but it also performs a purely practical function. Astronauts can quickly determine the moment of the onset of weightlessness by the behavior of the toy.

Another NASA astronaut tradition is the pre-flight breakfast menu. For breakfast, they always eat a medium-fried beef steak and scrambled eggs. This tradition goes back to the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, who ate these particular dishes before his flight.