A legend in Space: Meeting Gennady Padalka

Grubbstrom-Padalka-Diplome 2The Olympic movement and Space exploration may not seem an obvious mix – but in fact the two came together in a sporting union in the heart of Moscow earlier this year.

FAI President Dr John Grubbström (pictured left between Vladimir Ivanov, President of the Russian Air Sport Federation, and cosmonaut Padalka) was in Russia to meet representatives from the Russian Olympic Committee in March – and he took the opportunity to present legendary cosmonaut Gennady Padalka with a special medal for the amount of time Padalka has spent orbiting the Earth.

Grubbström explained: “The meeting was at the Russian Olympic Committee Head Office in Moscow. I was accompanied by FAI Executive Director Frits Brink, and we were greeted by the General Director of the Russian Olympic Committee Vladimir Sengleev.

“He was heading up quite a delegation, and we were also greeted by the President of the Russian Air Sport Federation, Valdimir Ivanov, and their Secretary General Sergeij Ananov who also acted as interpreter.”

Grubbstrom-Padalky-Officials 2FAI President Dr Grubbström and FAI Executive Director Brink met Russian Olympic Committee representatives together with Ivanov, the President of the Russian Air Sport Federation, and cosmonaut Padalka

The FAI was given the opportunity to introduce themselves and Russia's National Aero Committee to the Russian Olympic Committee.

“I felt it was well received,” Grubbström said about the three-hour meeting. “I was invited back to a forthcoming meeting with the Russian Olympic Committee in the autumn.”

He added: “We briefed on the booming air sport development in Asia. All in all it was a very positive meeting.”

The meeting also included the presentation of an FAI medal to one of Russia’s most famous cosmonauts, Gennady Padalka. Padalka holds the FAI world record for the most amount of time any human has spent in Space.

Padalka, 58, is a time-served cosmonaut with five long missions to space stations under his belt: one to Mir and four to the International Space Stations. As a result, over the length of his five trips he has spent a cumulative total of 879 days in Space. That’s 29 months in zero-gravity.

He broke the previous record, held by Sergei Krikalev at 803 days, last year on 28 June 2015. At the time he was in the middle of his fifth mission to the International Space Station.

By the time Padalka returned to Earth on 12 September 2015, he had clocked up a further two-and-a-half months in Space. That brought his total time spend orbiting the planet to 878 days, 11 hours and 29 minutes.

Six months later still his record was officially recognised by the FAI as a world record for ‘Accumulated Space Time’.Grubbstrom-Padalka-Square-WEBFAI President Dr. Grubbström and cosmonaut Padalka

“Meeting Gennady Padalka was most interesting,” Grubbström said. “In spite of his achievements and incredible CV he came across as a very humble and ‘normal’ person, with a very open and friendly attitude.”

Grubbström added: “I felt he genuinely appreciates what the FAI does for young people and also for acknowledging his and his crews’ achievements.”

And he noted: “He was glad to see I was wearing the Gagarin medal for the occasion!” Grubbström was presented with the Gagarin medal in 2011 on behalf of the Federation Aeronautical Sports of Russia. It commemorates Yuri Gagarin's historic space flight on 12 April 1961, when he became the first human in space.

Padalka is highly respected in his field, both in Russia and internationally. After graduating from Eisk Military College he joined the Russian Air Force and was a bomber pilot before training as a cosmonaut when he was 31.

A chance meeting with the Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov, the first man to successfully execute a space walk, prompted Padalka to apply. “He suggested that I become a cosmonaut,” Padalka said in a 2004 interview about the encounter. “I agreed.”

As well as spending nearly two-and-a-half years in total in Space, Padalka, who has been called “the ultimate Obi Wan” by his US colleagues in reference to the Star Wars films, has executed a total of nine space walks outside the International Space Station, including several of five-hours duration.

Despite his record number of days spent in Space Padalka is still an active cosmonaut and has said he hopes his next mission will see him pass the 1,000 days mark.

Following the presentation of the FAI medal to Padalka, Grubbström said: “I am very grateful to Vladimir Ivanov of the Russian Air Sport Federation for arranging this meeting and opportunity to present Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka with his well-deserved FAI Diploma in this setting, and in the presence of officials of the Russian Olympic Committee."