Many, many astronauts have gone on to be wonderful orators, educators, advocates for science, education and positive thinking, Major Tom Colonel (ret) and (fmr) ISS Commander Chris Hadfield is just one of them. I linked to a video in which he appears in this answer at 02:41 because of his plain-spoken clarity.

But go back to 02:26 and there's a file photo of Hadfield in a space suit. There is a name tag with both


and what I assume is a transliteration into Russian.

Question: What is the process by which non Russian astronauts have their name transliterated into Russian? I would guess that for common names like "Chris" there might be standard transliterations, but there must be dozens of names that so infrequently appear in Russian that there could be some flexibility here. Do the astronauts themselves have some opportunity to choose between options (like when looking for a name in Chinese) or is the phonetic transliteration so straightforward that there isn't much flexibility?

Is there an official process for this? Does it take place at the Russian end or at the agency where the non-Russian astronaut is from?

Chris Hadfield's bilingual name tag on a space suit

  • $\begingroup$ Excellent question. It appears that there is also a process in the opposite direction, translating Russian names into English, as each ISS crewmember has a nametag in both languages. $\endgroup$ – DrSheldon Oct 20 '20 at 5:28
  • $\begingroup$ @DrSheldon I thought about parity but there really may be much less need for that; most non US/CA astronauts (including Russians) are likely to already know how to write their name in English from university if not earlier, and languages like Japanese and Chinese have well-established standard systems of transliteration into English. It may be so into Russian as well, I just don't know, so let's find out. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 20 '20 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ @DrSheldon: "It appears that there is also a process in the opposite direction, translating Russian names into English" – Translating Russian to English is not the opposite of transliterating English to Russian. The opposite of transliterating English to Russian is transliterating Russian to English. Translating Russian to English would be the opposite of translating English to Russian. For example, the transliteration of Павел is Pavel (more precisely, a transliteration, since there are a dozen different systems), but the translation is Paul (or Paulus). $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Oct 20 '20 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ Romanization of Russian en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanization_of_Russian This is a tricky question. In different eras, Latin and French were the international languages. And the romanization of the Cyrillic alphabet took place in a different way. One of the striking examples - Евпатория. 150 years this name was romanized as Eupatoria. but for the last 15 years or so, the American version has been seen more - Yevpatoria. $\endgroup$ – A. Rumlin Oct 20 '20 at 16:44

Since astronauts at ISS know Russian, we should not overlook the possibility that they translate their names themselves!

See for example astronaut's Peggy Whitson's on the language of the International Space Station:

Launching and landing in a space craft we have to know Russian. We have to be able to read the displays and the procedures are all in Russian.

  • $\begingroup$ This is an excellent point and it never occurred to me! Now that I think about it, I would be surprised if this was not the correct answer. Welcome to Space! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 2 '20 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ megasplash, Do you have any actual evidence that astronauts themselves are involved in the production of suit name tags, or is this pure speculation? $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Nov 3 '20 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble As I stated, this is an assumption. If you think about it, a person involved in a space flight possibly has to fill/sign a number of forms and some of them could be in Russian, so the name for the tag might be just taken from one of the official forms. $\endgroup$ – megasplash Nov 3 '20 at 6:37
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble On a second thought, lets call it an inference. (Not a native English speaker here. I guess, “assumption” is not a correct term, but “speculation” doesn't seem to be right either.) $\endgroup$ – megasplash Nov 3 '20 at 7:00
  • $\begingroup$ "Guess" or "suspicion" are another possibilities if there is no evidence. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Nov 3 '20 at 11:12

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