Audio Andy Thomas describes being a cosmonaut, 2008

TLF ID R9903

This is an edited sound recording of Australian astronaut Andy Thomas describing how he prepared to spend almost five months as a cosmonaut in 1998 aboard the Russian space station Mir, in company with two Russians. He also talks about conversational difficulties aboard the space station. The recording was made in August 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This recording outlines the experience of the only Australian who has spent time aboard the Russian space station Mir. Thomas (1951-) spent 141 days aboard Mir as an astronaut of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He was the seventh and final NASA astronaut to spend time on Mir under a cooperative program between Russia and the USA, launched as a prelude to the building of the International Space Station (ISS).
  • Thomas provides an insight into what was involved in preparing himself to spend an extended period in space with two Russian cosmonauts who did not speak English. He tells of his year-long training program at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City near Moscow. This involved 'immersion' training in the Russian language, while he learnt details of the operations of Russian spacecraft systems.
  • The recording illustrates how, even without the aid of an interpreter, a scientist like Thomas was able to become proficient enough in Russian to participate in all the technical aspects of working aboard the Russian spacecraft. However, he points out that he struggled with learning enough non-technical Russian for light social conversations appropriate, for example, at meal times.
  • Russia had cosmonauts aboard Mir almost continuously from 1986 to 2000, when it was deliberately taken out of orbit and broke up on re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere. One cosmonaut, Valeri Polyakov, spent 437 days aboard Mir, the longest-ever single space flight. NASA astronauts maintained a permanent presence from March 1996 to the end of Thomas's stay in June 1998.
  • Having Thomas and other astronauts aboard Mir enabled NASA to carry out studies about the effects of long-duration spaceflight. The studies paid close attention to psychological aspects of life in space. Possible stresses included a sense of isolation, monotony, confinement or personality clashes with other crew members.
  • Thomas has had four space flights. His first mission was in 1996, when he spent ten days aboard the shuttle Endeavour - the same shuttle that took him to Mir in 1998. His third and fourth missions were on board the shuttle Discovery in 2001 and 2005, both to the ISS. On the 2001 mission, Thomas spent 6.5 hours on a 'space walk' installing components on the exterior of the ISS.

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Andy Thomas
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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Learning Resource Type
  • Audio
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