Moscow assumes the training, travel and stay of Minsk's first female cosmonaut to the International Space Station

Putin thanks Belarusian President Lukashenko for his support for Ukraine invasion

PHOTO/Kremlin - El presidente de Bielorrusia, Alexander Lukashenko, es el más firme aliado de Vladimir Putin. El 9 de junio pasado mantuvieron un desayuno de trabajo informal en la residencia de verano del presidente ruso en el balneario de Sochi
photo_camera PHOTO/Kremlin - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is Vladimir Putin's staunchest ally. They had an informal breakfast meeting at the Russian president's summer residence in the resort of Sochi on 9 June

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko have just reaffirmed their commitment to closer bilateral economic, technological and security cooperation after meeting last weekend in the Russian resort of Sochi on the Black Sea coast. 

Russia's main political, economic and military ally in Europe, the meeting between the two leaders allowed Putin to confirm to Lukashenko that his armed forces plan to begin deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus between 7 and 8 July. This is just days before the summit of heads of state and government of the Atlantic Alliance countries, scheduled for 11-12 July in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

PHOTO/Kremlin - Rusia tiene programado el despliegue de armas nucleares t谩cticas en Bielorrusia a partir de 7 de julio, muy pocos d铆as antes de la cumbre de jefes de Estado y de Gobierno de la OTAN en Vilna, la capital de Lituania
PHOTO/Kremlin - Russia is scheduled to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus from 7 July, just days before the summit of NATO heads of state and government in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius

The positioning of Russian nuclear warheads on Belarusian territory is neither coincidental nor gratuitous. President Lukashenko, who will be 69 in August, is Putin's biggest supporter in his illegal invasion of Ukraine, and his support will pay off in several spheres of activity, space being one of the main ones. 

Moscow and Minsk have agreed that a young Belarusian woman will be the first citizen of the Eastern European country to become a cosmonaut. Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, will undertake her education and training, take her to the International Space Station (ISS), facilitate on-board experiments and bring her back to Earth for the greater glory of Lukashenko, who has been in power since July 1994.

PHOTO/TsPK-Roscosmos - La Academia de Ciencias de Bielorrusia recibi贸 unas 3.000 solicitudes. Solo las seis que aparecen en imagen fueron preseleccionadas. Tras ellas, con cabello blanco, Sergei Krikaliov, director de vuelos tripulados de Rusia
PHOTO/TsPK-Roscosmos - The Belarusian Academy of Sciences received some 3,000 applications. Only the six pictured here were shortlisted. Behind them, with white hair, Sergei Krikaliov, Russia's director of human spaceflight

A stewardess for the state airline

According to the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences' Aerospace Department, headed by 70-year-old economist Vladimir Gusakov, around 3,000 applications were submitted to the call for applications, according to the institution itself. The short list of those shortlisted was reduced last December to six young women: two stewardesses for the state airline Belavia, a forensic doctor, a gynaecologist, a paediatric surgeon and a research chemist.  

The half-dozen girls were sent to Moscow's Cosmonaut Training Centre (TsPK) to undergo a wide range of psychological, medical, intelligence, sociability and critical behaviour tests to determine their suitability for outer space flight.

PHOTO/TsPK-Roscosmos - El presidente Lukashenko saluda a Marina Vasilevskaya, la joven elegida para convertirse en la primera bielorrusa en viajar al espacio y trabajar en la ISS
PHOTO/TsPK-Roscosmos - President Lukashenko greets Marina Vasilevskaya, the young woman chosen to become the first Belarusian to travel into space and work on the ISS

Lukashenko travelled to Moscow to meet the six candidates. He reassured them that those who are not designated to fly on the first mission will fly on subsequent missions. "Your aspirations will not be discarded, don't worry," he told them. "Those who do not go into space in 2024 will go later and live in the Russian-Belarusian segment of the future ROS orbital complex that Roscosmos has under development. There will be enough work for all of them," he reassured them. 

The one finally chosen to be trained as a regular cosmonaut is Marina Vasilevskaya, one of Belavia's stewardesses. Anastasia Lenkova, a paediatric surgeon working at the Scientific and Practical Centre of Paediatric Surgery in Minsk, has been nominated to replace her in case of unforeseen circumstances. Both will be trained to carry out the ten or so experiments in biotechnology and medicine on board the ISS in the scientific programme devised by the Belarusian Academy of Sciences.

PHOTO/TsPK-Roscosmos - Anastasia Lenkova (izquierda), cirujana pedi谩trica, relevar铆a a Marina Vasilevskaya, azafata de la aerol铆nea estatal Belavia, en el caso de que esta 煤ltima sufra alg煤n percance que desaconseje su viaje la ISS
 PHOTO/TsPK-Roscosmos - Anastasia Lenkova (left), a paediatric surgeon, would take over from Marina Vasilevskaya, a stewardess with the state airline Belavia, should the latter suffer a mishap that would prevent her from travelling to the ISS

Training begins in a few weeks 

NASA and Roscosmos have already agreed that Marina Vasilevskaya will fly in March 2024 in the Soyuz MS-25 space capsule. The chief commander of the mission has been handpicked. He is Russian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Novitsky, a Belarusian by birth but a naturalised Russian citizen, who has three space voyages under his belt. Joining them both as flight engineer will be American astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who has been to the ISS twice.

The head of Russia's manned space programme, former Russian astronaut Sergei Krikaliov, who has six space missions under his belt - two on the Russian Mir orbital complex, two on the US space shuttle and two on the ISS - has confirmed that Marina Vasilevskaya's training will begin at TsPK in Moscow in late summer or early autumn. 

PHOTO/Kremlin-RIA Novosti - Putin brinda los cohetes rusos para que los cosmonautas y los sat茅lites de Lukashenko puedan acceder y posicionarse en el espacio
PHOTO/Kremlin-RIA Novosti - Putin provides Russian rockets for Lukashenko's cosmonauts and satellites to access and position themselves in space

The Lukashenko government is in the process of expanding its space industrial fabric in the shadow of the Complex-SG, Resource-SG and Kosmodozor-SG programmes covering the period 2024-2028. With the contribution of Russian companies, the president of the aforementioned Academy of Sciences, Gusakov, said on 10 April that one of the "most ambitious" initiatives is to "build the orbital and ground infrastructure of an Earth observation system based on an ultra-high-resolution remote sensing satellite". 

Sergei Zolotoi, Director of Geo-information Systems at the Academy of Sciences, also announced that the Minsk government is finalising studies to participate with Russia in a "joint project of small satellites dedicated to civil and military applications". If realised, it would be part of a bilateral constellation to be deployed starting in 2028. 

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