First Briton speaks to Hyperbola

by | Jul 8, 2009 | History, Russia, Soyuz, space station | 0 comments

First Briton in space Helen Sharman spoke to Hyperbola after being awarded the first silver astronaut pin by the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) on 3 July 2009. Sharman flew to the Mir space station in May 1991. Called Project Juno the mission had been initiated by London based Moscow Narodny Bank, a subsidiary of the Soviet Union’s Vnesheconombanka bank, that thought it could organise private funding to send a foreign citizen to the Mir space station

Deciding to conduct this commercial venture in the UK adverts were placed in 1989 for applicants and over 13,000 were received. Managed by Brunel University’s Institute for Bio-Engineering Sharman, a chemist working in the food industry at the time, was selected and with a British Army air corps Major as her backup crew man went through 18 months of cosmonaut training. Launched on Soyuz TM-12 on 18 May her mission lasted eight-days

The BIS also awarded a silver pin to British born US citizen Richard Garriott, the sixth spaceflight participant to go to the International Space Station. Garriott, the son of NASA Skylab and Space Shuttle astronaut Owen Garriott, made his money in the computer game industry. The BIS plans to award British born NASA astronauts Michael Foale, Piers Sellers and Nick Patrick silver pins in the near future 

Despite reports in 1991 and since that Project Juno was a private mission, and even Sharman herself refers to it as a commercial mission, the Soviet bank failed to raise any private financing and the entire mission was paid for by the Soviet government. It went ahead with the approval of then Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev. Hyperbola investigated the background to Juno a while back and spoke to the UK organisers about the realities of Project Juno

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