Mogensen Becomes First Dane in Space

Soyuz rocket

Image courtesy ESA/S. Corvaja

Mogensen Becomes First Dane in Space
| published September 2, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

Astronaut Andreas Mogensen, the first Dane ever to go into space, even looks like Yuri Gagarin. So the resemblance made it that much easier for millions of people in Denmark to hail Mogensen as “Denmark’s Gagarin” on Thursday, when a Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Naikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on its mission of delivering the Dane and his fellow crew members to the International Space Station this week.

Gagarin, in case you missed the news in the 1960s, was the first human in space. His launch aboard a Vostok rocket in April 1961 elevated the space race from a contest between mere satellites to a peaceful technological battle between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the start of manned spaceflight.

Mogensen was accompanied on his historic liftoff by Russian Sergei Volkov, who serves as commander of the mission, and Aidyn Aimbetov of Kazcosmos, the space agency of Kazakhstan. The three-member crew will rendezvous on Friday with the International Space Station, where they will join the current ISS crew in a variety of complex tests and scientific experiments meant to prepare for the long-duration space voyages planned for the coming decades, including the sprawling Orion program.

Among Mogensen’s assignments while aboard the space station: test Danish-designed exercise bikes crafted to improve the way astronauts and cosmonauts maintain muscle strength and heart health while engaged in long durations of weightlessness and sleep-pattern disruptions. Similar bikes have been aboard the space station since 2001, but these newest models are considered a huge improvement.

Aimbetov, meanwhile, will wear high-tech headgear developed to closely track and monitor the effects of long-duration travels in space, most especially the impact of solar radiation on the brain and its connecting tissue.

History was also made with Volkov’s arrival to space. He is the first offspring of a previous space traveler ever to go into space. Volkov’s father is Alexander Volkov, the cosmonaut who commanded the 1991 mission which took Tokhtar Aubakirov (the first Kazakh ever to go into space) into an orbital mission aboard a Russian spacecraft.

The crew will join Americans Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Russians Mikheil Kornienko and Gennady Padalka, and Japan Space Agency (JAXA) astronaut Kimiya Yui. Also aboard the space station already is veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, a civilian mechanical engineer originally from Turkmenistan. After the new crew members arrive on Friday, the International Space Station will achieve a new record with nine team members aboard simultaneously.

Long duration trips to Mars, the asteroid belt, Venus and other distant planets and moons will require larger crews, as well as a fuller, more comprehensive understanding of the effects of weightlessness and radiation on the human body, and literally hundreds of other previously untested factors ranging from diet to internal organs to exercise to eyesight. Kelly and Kornienko are part of a one-year mission to test just such effects on the human body, and Padalka is set to attain the record of 878 days in space by the time he returns to Earth in less than two weeks.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Resupply Mission for Space Station; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; August 20, 2015.

Biomedical Experiments on Space Station; Keith H. Roberts ; Thursday Review; August 7, 2015.