‘Invest in space, not war’: Russian cosmonaut urges Russia-US cooperation

Fruitful cooperation between the Russian and US crews at the International Space Station should become a template for relations between Moscow and Washington, cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev told RT as a new mission prepares to head to the ISS on Sunday.

Artemyev believes that lack of consent between politicians is what prevents humanity from moving forward and starting deep space exploration.

“Both Russia and the US have technical capabilities [to move into deep space], but there’s no understanding that we need this. Of course, it’s easier to start a war and pump a lot of money into it than invest into the space industry,” he said.

The cosmonaut has called the International Space Station (ISS) “a diamond of international cooperation” where the current tensions between Moscow and Washington aren’t felt at all.

“Space unites us all,” he explained, stressing the need for “more space projects that would make the people understand that there’s no need for confrontation.”

“I lived in the American segment [of the ISS]… and I communicated with the US, European and Japanese crew members, and it turns out that peace and family values are of prime importance to all of us,” the 43-year-old said.

Image from artemjew.ru

‘I never dreamt of space’

Despite going to school in the Kazakh town of Baikonur where the world’s largest space launch facility is situated, Artemyev confessed that he didn’t even dream of becoming cosmonaut in his younger years.

“It was something unachievable. A completely different level. Cosmonauts at the Baikonur Cosmodrome were super people for us school kids,” he said.

Artemyev said decided to try joining the space program a lot later when he was a student in Moscow.

The cosmonaut now says that the 169 days he spent at the ISS in March – September 2014 “were absolutely great.”

“This is my job and I have no regrets in choosing it. I think anyone who could imagine what I saw and felt, would certainly want to go to space,” he stressed.

Namib desert in Africa pictured from the ISS. (Image from artemjew.ru)

The pinnacle moment of his space journey were the two space walks, which were “difficult and dangerous, but fascinating,” Artemyev said.

“When the hatch opened, I was fully prepared, as we have to undergo extensive training for this back on Earth, up to two years. It takes place in a hydrolaboratory in the Cosmonaut Training Center in a pressure suit, but underwater which is pretty much the same, but a bit more complicated. The main difference is that underwater you receive assistance from the divers - they can always help you. But in open space you and your partner are all alone – and helping each other is vital,” he stressed.

Zero-G selfie

Besides spacewalks and scheduled experiments, the cosmonaut was also tasked with informing those on Earth about the mission via social media.

Artemyev's Instagram attracted 124,000 followers as he beamed down nearly 900 photos from the ISS and even made a video guide on taking zero-gravity selfies.

Besides many picturesque photos of Earth from space, he also pictured plenty of things that took place aboard the station.

The cosmonaut posted several photos of a collection of toy animals, which are brought into space by the crews as “indicators of weightlessness.”

“When the spaceship launches, the commander or the flight engineer carries a toy – it gets hung on a string, and starts floating when we leave the Earth's gravity. Many cosmonauts take toys along, especially their own children's toys, so they get to visit space. And some leave the toys on the station, so I collected them and took a photo,” he explained.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev with toys used as indicator of weightlessness by ISS crews. (Image from artemjew.ru)

He also shared with his audience a picture of an onion, which he grew while being at the International Space Station.

“Here is the photo of an onion – the only thing that you can grow in space. But it's a real challenge - as soon as it starts to grow and catches the eye of a crewmember - everyone wants a bite - that's why you have to hide it. It's delicious,” Artemyev said.

Japan’s mount Fuji pictured from space. (Image from artemjew.ru)

He also stressed that the space food at the station was “delicious. You choose the food before the mission - and it's quite a broad selection. You taste a number of dishes, and grade them on a ten-point scale.”

The cosmonaut also said that he enjoys cinema and rarely misses high-budget Hollywood flicks about space.

He said he’s still to watch ‘Interstellar’ by Christopher Nolan, but shared his thought on the 2013 blockbuster, ‘Gravity’.

“The film got a lot of negative feedback, but I liked it. Of course, it’s half-truth and it’s more of a dramedy… I watched this film with the guys, who actually build spaceships, and I’ve never seen anybody laughing so loud. There’s plenty of funny moments there, but there’s also some truth – that it’s really dangerous job,” Artemyev explained.

US astronaut Steve Swanson (L) and Russian cosmonauts Aleksandr Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev at the International Space Station. (Image from artemjew.ru)

The cosmonaut says his aim now is to return to the ISS as part of another mission as “space is drug.”

Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, American astronaut Terry Virts and European astronaut Samantha Christoforetti will launch for the International Space Station on Sunday to replace Russia’s Aleksandr Samokutyaev, Elena Serova and Barry Wilmore of the US.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. (Image from artemjew.ru)