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Gennadi Mikhailovich Strekalov was born on 26th October, 1940 in Mytishchi near Moscow City of Russia. He was an engineer, cosmonaut, and administrator at Russian aerospace firm RSC Energia. He flew into space five times and lived aboard the Salyut-6, Salyut-7, and Mir space stations, for the duration of 268 days in space. The catastrophic explosion of a Soyuz rocket in 1983 led to him being one of only four people to use a launch escape system. He was appreciated and rewarded twice as Hero of the Soviet Union.
His father’s name was Mikhail Strekalov and mother’s name was Praskoyva. His father Mikhail Strekalov became martyred in 1945 while fighting for the Red Army in Poland. Gennadi Strekalov completed his education from N.E.Bauman Moscow Higher Technical School in 1965 with Diploma Degree in Engineering. He wife’s name is Lydia Anatolievna Telezhldna and the couple were blessed with two daughters namely, Tatiana and Natalia. He took his last breath in Moscow on 25th December 2004, the death was caused due to cancer. He died at the age of 64.
After completing school, Strekalov started working as an apprentice coppersmith at OKB-1, Sergei Korolev’s experimental design bureau, where his duty was to assemble Sputnik 1. He left his job for further education and went to attend university at N. E. Bauman Moscow Higher Technical School, gain a degree in technical science. After completing his degree, he returned back to OKB-1 (presently known as RSC Energia) and worked there till he reached to his superannuation (retired).
Being a part of an operations group, he engaged in mission control for flights of scientific research vehicles belonging to the Academy of Sciences.
January 1974, he started his training as a crew member for a mission aboard the Soyuz spacecraft as a flight engineer and, in 1976, was part of the backup crew for the Soyuz 22 mission. From October 1978, he trained as a flight engineer for Soyuz assignment to Salyut-series space stations.
His first spaceflight was from 27th November to 10th December 1980, as research engineer on Soyuz T-3’s mission to the Salyut 6 station.
His next flight was to be new Salyut-7 space station. He and Vladimir Titov were the backup crew for the Soyuz T-5 mission, the first flight to the new station. The pair, together with Aleksandr Serebrov, inaugurated in April 1983 on Soyuz T-8. As the spacecraft splited from the aerodynamic fairing that protected it during inauguration, part of its Igla meeting radar system was found damaged. The crew tried a manual docking, using only optical instruments aboard their spacecraft and directed by ground radar, but the efforts was unsuccessful and for avoiding collision, Titov had to brake and dive. After using too much of their dynamical trial for another approach, the crew were imposed back to Earth on 22nd April.
Strekalov and Titov were re-scheduled to fly to Salyut-7 on 26th September, 1983. The mission’s Soyuz-U launcher embarked a serious fuel leak few minutes prior launch, compelling the launch control to attempt to fire the launch escape system to pull away the spacecraft from the rocket to safety. Initially it failed, but finally worked for only 20 seconds prior the rocket discharged, catastrophic Baikonur’s LC1 pad. Strekalov and Titov’s capsule was dragged to safety and landed 4 kilometres from the pad, its inhabitants impaired but no one was injured. Strekalov and Titov’s narrow escape is the only live use of a launch escape system in the history of human spaceflight. Titov and Strekalov would later celebrate the anniversary of their dramatic escape, as their “second birthday”. As it didn’t inaugurated, the mission is known by its technical article designation Soyuz 7K-ST No.16L; it would have been Soyuz T-10, with a codename that was instead used for the following year.
Strekalov’s next spaceflight was aboard Soyuz T-11, with Yury Malyshev and Indian cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma. The flight launched from Baikonur’s Site 31 on 3rd April 1984 and, unlike Strekalov’s foregoing two attempts, successfully docked with Salyut-7. The team stayed on Salyut-7 till 11th April, and returned to Earth and that to not in the spacecraft in which they were supposed to come, but in the reentry module of Soyuz T-10, which was already docked at the space station.
From 1st August to 10th December 1990 he was the flight engineer on Soyuz TM-10’s flight to Mir, with Gennadi Manakov and Japanese reporter-cosmonaut Toyohiro Akiyama. This was his longest spaceflight,which was 130 days.
After this, Strekalov took retirement and became head of the civilian section of the cosmonaut department. But he returned to flight status for the Shuttle–Mir Program and on 14th March 1995, he flew on Soyuz TM-21 to the Mir space station, accompanied by Vladimir Dezhurov and American astronaut Norman Thagard. The mission, designated EO-18, which was the first non-US launch to carry an American into space. In spite successful of, Strekalov’s time on Mir was anxious – the team undertook a number of taxing spacewalks to repair the station, coming ahead in a dispute when mission controllers instructed an unplanned spacewalk to repair a stuck solar array. Strekalov, being convinced that, the proposal is dangerous, refused to perform the same, and discussed with his colleagues on the ground for few days until they permitted. On 7th July the TM-21 team returned to Earth, not on the Soyuz that had brought them, but by the aboard US Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-71) which had brought their relief. The mission lasted for 115 days. For refusing the order Strekalov’s was fined amounting near about $10,000 in pension and benefit entitlements, but he took RSC Energia to arbitration and had the fine revoked.
Strekalov continued to work for RSC Energia till the day he took his last breath.