To heaven and beyond: Artist depicts bizarre Russian Orthodox space mission (IMAGES)

To heaven and beyond: Artist depicts bizarre Russian Orthodox space mission (IMAGES)
A rocket shaped like a cathedral, crucifix-topped helmets and icon-studded space suits, it’s all part of a Russian artist’s futuristic take of a Russian Orthodox space mission, blurring the lines between religious belief and the atheist realism of space exploration.

Vladimir Malakhovskiy, a concept artist from St. Petersburg, unveiled his ‘Orthodox Space Program’ this October. The images show the journey of three bearded Christian Orthodox priests to the final frontier. Wearing spacesuits painted with icons and large crucifixes, the priests are ready to bless the galaxy. 

In a picture called ‘Departure,’ the holy crew blasts into space aboard a rocket topped with golden Orthodox domes. All in the skies above a neglected post-Soviet town.

The final picture of the series, so far, is the ‘Spherical Priest in a Vacuum.’ Out on a spacewalk, the corpulent holy father, complete with a censer and fancy robes, is snapping a selfie with his spaceship. The vessel has Orthodox icons sticking out of every surface and apparently even replacing solar batteries. After all, who needs solar power when you have faith?

While Malakhov's space priests are still the stuff of (non-)science fiction and satire, faith does have its place in Russian space missions. Orthodox priests traditionally give their blessing to rockets which are due to blast off into space.

In 2016, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov brought a gospel, icons and stones from holy Mount Tabor which is considered by many believers to be the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus, to the International Space station (ISS).

Hegumen Job, who lives in the Zvyozdny Gorodok cosmonaut training facility near Moscow, is considered to be the spiritual advisor for Russia’s space crews. Having always dreamed of space, the holy father even underwent some space training in 2006. Spacesuits, zero-gravity and open space simulation – after all the drills, who knows, maybe he will become the first real 'Priest in a Vacuum.'