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Friday, December 21, 2012

Space Center History. Our Young Astronauts Attend the International Space Camp. Siberia USSR. 1989

Rangi, Rocky, Me and Kyle 
The Young Pioneer Camp. Novosibirsk, Siberia.  USSR
This picture was taken by a KGB photographer who photographed us 
the entire 3 weeks of the camp.

Hello Troops,

In the summer of 1989 I received a fax from Moscow, USSR inviting myself and three students to attend an International Youth Space Camp in Novosibirsk, Siberia.  Another invitation was sent to a Salt Lake Young Astronaut Chapter operated by Milagros Baladozo at Northwest Middle School.  The invitation was extended through the American Young Astronaut Council in Washington DC.  Our Young Astronaut Club at Central School was one of the top in the nation.

 Part of the original Telex giving me instruction on putting together
our delegation to the International Space Camp
We couldn't phone or fax.  Messages had to go back and forth by telex.  Very expensive to send a message.

 We had previously represented the United States at the International Young Astronaut Convention in Japan two years earlier and proven we could handle ourselves well on the international stage.   We were chosen from among 27,000 Young Astronaut Chapters nationally.  I selected my top club members, Rangi Smart, Rocky Smart and Kyle Sanderson to accompany me for the three week camp from July 25 to August 17.

A Glavkosmos Patch.
Soviet Space Program

The invitation to attend the camp was issued by Glavkosmos, the Soviet Space Agency, and the All Union Youth Aerospace Society, which sponsored the Soviet Union's Young Cosmonaut Clubs.  The Soviet government payed all our expenses except for airfare to and from the USSR.  The other countries invited to participate were Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, France and Kuwait.  All of those countries were involved in the Soviet "Intercosmos" Program which allowed astronauts from other nations to fly on Soviet space missions.

 The unofficial motto of the Young Astronaut Program was "Peace Through Space".  The focus for the camp was to build friendships between our nations youth.

I didn't know very much about our trip to Russia before leaving Utah.  It was hard to get much information from the Russians , but I knew we would spend three days sightseeing in Moscow, and the rest of the time at the Siberian camp attending lectures, designing space equipment and meeting cosmonauts.  I knew we would also be visiting the Novosibirsk Academy of Sciences.

USSR State Seal Patch worn by Cosmonauts

This was my second of three trips to the Soviet Union.  My first was in 1986 as a tourist.  I was teaching very basic Russian history as part of our 6th grade social studies and wanted to see the places I covered in my curriculum.

World events were changing in the mid to late 1980's.  Communism was beginning to loose its iron hold in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.  I wanted to experience life in a communist totalitarian state before history swept most of them away.      

We Were Off to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics!

Our group left Salt Lake City on July 25, 1989 for Chicago.  We were suppose to have over an hour layover there, but the plane was kept in a holding pattern due to poor weather.  I got real nervous as the time for our departure to Europe was getting closer and closer and we were still circling the airport on our flight from Salt Lake.  We had 15 minutes to catch our Lufthansa Flight to Germany after we finally landed.   It was a mad dash to the Lufthansa gate.  They were holding the DC10 for us.

 A Lufthansa DC10
National German Airlines

I was worried our luggage wouldn't make it.  The gate attendant said 15 minutes was enough time for their ground crew to transfer our bags.  I think she said it to calm me down, knowing the bags most likely wouldn't make the transfer - and they didn't.

Our flight was uneventful, except for the fact that our seats were in the last row of the no smoking section of the aircraft.  The smoking section started right behind us.  A lot of good that did us in the six hour or so flight.  

We had a layover in Frankfort Germany, then flew on to Moscow.  Our luggage wasn't there.  I started to panic.  Normally it wouldn't have been a big deal - your luggage would come on the next Lufthansa flight the following day.   But the next day we were on our way to Novosibirsk, Siberia and Lufthansa didn't fly to Siberia!  To add to the problem was the fact that the camp wasn't located in Novosibirsk.  Our Young Pioneer Communist Camp was located 70 miles outside of the capital of Siberia.

Cosmonaut Arm Patch

We were met at Moscow's International Airport by representatives from Souyz, the Soviet Young Cosmonauts Club, who were very helpful in tracking down the right authorities and filling out the missing luggage paperwork.  We were spared the sometimes grueling customs procedures because we were official guests of the government.

That evening in our Moscow hotel room, the boys and I discussed how we could live without suitcases.  Luckily Kyle had packed most of his candy, food and other treats we were going to give away to our  fellow Russian campers and supplement the unknown and rather bland Soviet cafeteria food, in his carry on.  Between the rest of us, we had soap, shampoo, a razor, our gifts to give to our hosts and other odds and ends that enabled us to survived the five days it took to get our luggage to us out in the middle of the Siberian wilderness.  Kyle also had a change of clothes in his carry on.  The rest of us didn't.  The suitcases arrived none too soon.

To Be Continued Tomorrow....

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