Wednesday, 18 November 2020 05:08

Romania 1964, Valeri Bykovsky spends 5 days alone in space, a record still unbroken

Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Romania 1964, Valeri Bykovsky spends 5 days alone in space, a record still unbroken Romania 1964, Valeri Bykovsky spends 5 days alone in space, a record still unbroken

When we think about how on the razors edge the early space flights were, we begin to get a sense of why the Cosmonauts and Astronauts were so revered, with so many stamps from so many places. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair.

This was a ten stamp issue celebrating various missions. Most countries doing space stamps indicated the cold war team they were on by which missions they covered. Romania had a little bit of an independent streak and so honored the Cosmonauts and Astronauts of both worlds. Romanian Dumitru Prunariu went to space in 1981 on the Soyuz 40 mission as part of the Soviet Intercosmos program.

Todays stamp is issue C159, a 1 Leu airmail stamp issued by Romania on January 15th, 1964. The 10 stamps were of different denominations with the lower values being diamond shaped. The set was also, and more commonly available perforated. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $1.40. The perforated version loses about a third of that value.

Valeri Bykovsky was born in 1934 in a suburb of Moscow. At age 16 he heard a presentation given to young men by the Moscow aviation club and eagerly joined. This then lead to a spot for him at the Kachinsk Military Aviation Academy and he was commissioned at age 21. Valeri was a fighter pilot and later a parachute instructor. He had 72 jumps before being accepted in the Cosmonaut training program.

After being a backup pilot on the Vostok 2 mission, Valeri got to space the first time on the Vostok 5 mission in 1963. The mission would see Valeri alone in his capsule and was scheduled to last eight days. During the mission he was to photograph the earth and conduct experiments including attempting to grow peas in space. Also of course seeing how space treated Valeri physically and mentally was the big experiment. Once in space, solar flares turned out to be much stronger than forecast. It was worried that the flares might change the the dynamics of the atmosphere and cause the already shallow orbit to decay and lead to a less controlled rentry potentially anywhere. It was decided to bring Valeri home early, still having spent 5 days in orbit alone, a still current record. Valeri was awarded membership in the communist party while in space and much decorated and promoted back home.

After seeing his potential Soyuz 2 mission scrubbed after the failure of Soyuz 1, Valeri went back to space two more times in 1976 on Soyuz 22 and again in 1978 on Soyuz 29. On Soyuz 29 he flew with East German Cosmonaut Sigmund Jahn, the first German in space and again part of the Soviet Intercosmos program. Sigmund took a plush toy Sandmannchen to space in order to film a piece for the the German animated children’s show. The film included included Soviet Cosmonauts joking that Sandmannchen should mate with their present Soviet plushtoy mascot Masha. Back on Earth, it was decided that the footage was not useable.

Late in his career, Valeri was a Major General and an important figure in the Intercosmos program. He died in 2019.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to join Romania in toasting the space travelers of both worlds. Come again tomorow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.