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I was watching this video and I realized that all the instruments on the Soyuz spacecraft is in Russian. So how can the non-Russian crew use those instruments? Do they also study Russian before the launch?

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They all need to study English/Russian as part of their basic training, and have some basic technical grasp of the language to suffice for communicating with crew-mates and handling some equipment.

There have been cases though, where cosmonauts, mostly, had poor (or under the 'desired' level) English language skills. In these cases, this has been amended by having another cosmonaut in the team with good English language skills, or having most of the astronauts speak basic/good Russian.


I remember the case with one of the last space shuttle missions to Mir station before it was decommissioned, where a cosmonaut (can't remember his name right now), could barely speak English, and they bypassed this by having the rest of the crew communicate with him in a mix of basic Russian and hand signs, and he also had another cosmonaut to rely on.

His very presence on this mission was very polemic, but this is aside from your question, as he kind of 'forced' himself into the mission by some political leverage. He was one of the chief designers of Mir and wanted to see it once before it being de-orbited.

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean this one? $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Dec 15 '14 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ No he's not, I can't seem to find again that article where I read that. It was from a scan of The Observer newspaper on Google News. It mentioned part of the controversy on this mission was that he was not as qualified as needed in terms of training (making note on the english skills) and that he used his position as designer of Mir to leverage his part in the mission. They also questioned his wife's opportunities (she was a cosmonaut too) as being leveraged as well because of his position. -- The article might have been biased so please take this comment with a grain of salt ;) $\endgroup$ – CodingDuckling Dec 15 '14 at 10:39
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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valery_Ryumin - the "wife" bit was the real giveaway. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Dec 15 '14 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, you beat me to it! I was waiting to post that right after my comment. There only appeared two cosmonaut couples in Wikipedia, and my guess is it was him. Now all I need to do is find that article again ha! $\endgroup$ – CodingDuckling Dec 15 '14 at 10:48
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There used to be quite a lot of language problems right after the crews started to be international first on Mir and then ISS. But today, the cosmonauts are expected to speak several languages, whichever country they come from, as they are usually crazily well educated people anyway. As for the Russian parts of the ship, the the non russian austronauts selected for an ISS mission go through 2 months training to get familiar with the russian parts of the station and to get basic knowledge of Russian language.

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