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Superstitious traditions of cosmonauts and astronauts

One might think that by the nature of their profession, cosmonauts and astronauts should be materialists. However, many of them are highly superstitious and perform mysterious rituals before flights…
Judging by the number of rituals and superstitions, it can be concluded that Russian cosmonauts are significantly more superstitious than their American counterparts.
Americans have come up with an interesting explanation for this phenomenon: the safety of space flights in Russia and the United States is incomparable.
In the USSR, over half a century, according to official data, four cosmonauts died, and the last tragedy occurred more than four decades ago. Losses among astronauts are at least four times higher — 17. Such flight safety is well worth the effort of performing all sorts of strange measures, which our cosmonauts regularly do.
For example, October 24 is a black day on the calendar of Soviet-Russian cosmonautics. This is the only day of the year when any launches are strictly prohibited. Fate chose October 24 for tragedies not just once, but twice. It was on this day in 1960 and 1963 that Soviet rockets exploded. As a result of the explosions, 92 and 7 people died, respectively.
At Baikonur, there are also their own traditions. The most famous one is to put coins on the rails along which the rocket is transported to the launch pad. Cosmonauts do not participate in this ritual because it is believed to bring bad luck to them.
Instead of squashing coins, they visit a barbershop. In addition to a haircut, a blessing from a priest is mandatory. The priest blesses not only the cosmonauts but also the rocket on the launch pad.
Both cosmonauts and astronauts operate on the principle: why change anything if everything went well. Therefore, many of the most ordinary and routine events that occurred on the day of a successful launch become traditions and rituals. It is not surprising that Yuri Gagarin became the “author” of many traditions in Soviet-Russian cosmonautics.
The strangest tradition attributed to the first cosmonaut is… relieving oneself on the rear wheel of the bus on which the cosmonauts travel to the Baikonur cosmodrome. The dubious honor was granted, however, not to everyone, but only to the rear right wheel, supposedly chosen by Yuri Alekseyevich on April 12, 1961.
By the way, there is no need to doubt the appropriateness or logic of the actions of the first cosmonaut, because half a century ago spacesuits were not as comfortable and comfortable as they are now. So if Yuri Gagarin did indeed do this before his flight on the Vostok-1 spacecraft, it can be considered a quite reasonable precaution.
There is no serious evidence of this fact, but this does not prevent cosmonauts from writing on the rear right wheel for more than half a century, although nowadays they can easily do the same in space thanks to comfortable suits, in which every detail is thought out.
Foreign astronauts launching from Baikonur on Russian rockets, and naturally, women are exempt from this ritual. However, it is said that female astronauts often take a bottle of urine with them to also observe the tradition.
The other traditions of Soviet-Russian cosmonautics are not so strange and often have a more or less reasonable explanation. For example, before a flight, cosmonauts must visit Red Square and pay tribute to the memory of Yuri Gagarin, Sergei Korolev, Vladimir Komarov — the first man who died in space, and the three victims of the tragic Soyuz-11 spacecraft flight in 1971: Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev, whose ashes rest in the Kremlin wall. This tradition is mandatory even for foreigners.
Cosmonauts also visit the Alley of Heroes at Baikonur to plant a tree before their flights. Yuri Gagarin was the first to do this before his flight. As you might guess, Gagarin’s tree is the oldest and largest here.
Before flights, cosmonauts come to the office of the first cosmonaut, where everything remains exactly as it was during his lifetime. They examine Yuri Gagarin’s personal belongings and make entries in the guestbook. The most superstitious, according to rumors, ask the spirit of the owner of the office for permission to fly into space.

Yuri Gagarin today’s cosmonauts and astronauts are obliged by a musical tradition — listening to lyrical songs just before launch. Music lifts the mood. However, each crew chooses its own repertoire.

In the evening before the flight, cosmonauts watch one and only one film — the famous Western “The White Sun of the Desert”. For breakfast on the day of the flight, they are given champagne. Before departing for the cosmodrome, cosmonauts sign their names on the doors of their hotel rooms, and they leave under the sounds of the hit song “Earth in the Porthole”.

On May 28, 2014, viewers watching the launch of the Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft to the ISS saw a plush giraffe floating near the control panel. It was a toy of astronaut Reid Wiseman’s daughter.

But the tradition of taking a talisman on the flight and attaching it to the control panel is Soviet-Russian. The tradition also has a practical value: when the toy starts floating in the air, engineers at Mission Control see that the state of weightlessness has been achieved, indicating a successful launch.

On April 17, 1970, the crew of Apollo 13 safely returned to Earth despite an oxygen tank explosion. The emergency shook NASA’s leadership. As a result, James Beggs, the administrator of NASA, ordered the number 13 to be removed from all NASA programs. This explains the strange numbering of shuttles from 1981 to 2011.

The first flight of the STS orbiter took place on April 12, 1981. Initially, the numbering was fine, but as the 13th flight approached, tension at NASA increased. Beggs came up with a new numbering system. As a result, after STS-9, the next shuttle sent into space was… STS-41B. The first digit in the new numbering denoted the year (84th in this case), the second denoted the launch pad number at the cosmodrome, and the letter denoted the launch sequence according to the schedule.

American astronauts have filet mignon with eggs for breakfast before their flight. The progenitor of this tradition is considered to be Alan Shepard. On May 5, 1961, three weeks after Gagarin’s flight, he went into space on the Freedom 7 capsule. In the morning, Alan had filet mignon with eggs for breakfast. The flight was successful. Since then, astronauts have had the same breakfast in the hope of good luck, although not all astronauts have a good appetite on launch day.

There are several other traditions associated with food. Every time employees at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) launch a probe or an unmanned satellite, they eat… peanuts. This tradition was born on July 28, 1964, after the successful launch of the interplanetary station Ranger 7, which was supposed to orbit the Moon and photograph its far side.

As you might guess, before Ranger 7, there were six similar stations numbered 1 through 6. The launches of all of them were unsuccessful for various reasons. On the day of the launch of the seventh station, an engineer brought peanuts to Mission Control and treated his colleagues.
Since the flight was successful, ever since then, peanuts have been eaten at Mission Control during launches. When people are sent into space, the menu at Mission Control is more diverse. Engineers and scientists eat beans with cornbread.

This tradition is almost two decades younger than the “peanut” one. It was born on April 12, 1981, when the first shuttle launched from Cape Canaveral. By the way, after this simple meal, all newcomers have their ties cut. This ritual came to space from aviation.

On the way to the launch pad, astronauts always play poker. And the game continues until the flight commander loses. Astronaut Winston Scott once confirmed to the Chicago Tribune that he and his colleagues play poker before every flight.

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