Mongolia’s historical space flight

30th Anniversary of launching a Mongolian into space
Montsame reporter Ya. Sukhbaatar stands between cosmonauts J.Gurragchaa and Vladimir Janibekov

A Mongolian man was launched into space for the first time on March 22, 1981. Citizen of Mongolia Gurragchaa Jugderdemid and Vladimir Janibekov of the USSR were launched to space from Baikonur space site in a Soyuz-39 spaceship. In space they joined two other Soviet space cosmonauts and spent 7 days 20 hours and 42 minutes there. Two Mongolian cosmonauts were prepared in 1978 to work in space under the Intercosmos program. J.Gurragchaa was chosen to fly and Maidarjavyn Ganzorig was left as Gurragchaa’s backup pilot. We introduce the conversation and reminiscence of the two men who reported on the preparations and launching of the flight on the occasion of 30 years of launching a Mongol man to space.

Witnessing Mongolia’s first manned space flight

By Ya. Sukhbaatar

I was the pupil of the 7th grade secondary educational school in Sukhbaatar Aimag when the historic event, Y.A.Gagarin’s first space flight was launched. My class-mates gathered in the classroom after hearing the news on radio of the launching of the first cosmonaut by the former USSR to the space. Although
Children had a vague idea of what happened, they were noisy and boisterous, discussing the flight of the Soviet cosmonaut and being surprised how a man could reach empty space hundreds kilometers from our planet. An event that happened 20 years ago has left an unforgettable imprint on my memory and in my heart like in the hearts of every Mongolian. In March 198,1 I had a chance to be included in the team of journalists to work for about a month to report on the joint Soviet-
Mongolian space flight. I was happy to see and observe, on some occasions from very close distance, how the space flight was launched, how diverse research and study was made on space orbit, and see the most painstaking moments of the space flight, the return of cosmonauts to the earth. The launching of the “Soyuz-39” space ship was reported by me from the Baikonur Central Space Flight Center near Moscow but the landing of the spaceship back to the earth was broadcast on radio from Jezkazgan, the Kazakh steppe region. That time, I worked in radio broadcasting service. I have to mention the role played in reporting this significant event by late Montsame commentators D.Bazarvaan and Ch.Chagdar.

It was late March 1981 and it was spring in Moscow. Members of the Mongolian delegation, journalists and reporters were housed in “Mir”(Peace) Hotel on Moscow river and they were very busy. We left Moscow to Jezkazgan in a four engine “IL-18” plane one day before Janibekov and Gurragcha’s space flight was completed. The plane “IL- 18” was considered the most reliable and safe flight ship. During our 4-hour flight we got acquainted with our Russian colleagues. Far down, beneath the window we could steppe vegetation, broomgrass, hills and hollows, stagnant waters of gray color and ponds. Soon when the stewardess announced that the plane was approaching Kazakhstan we landed in Jezkazgan. At the airport we were met by city officials, people having business relations with the space flight, and youth with bunches of flowers. Jezkazgan in Mongolian means “the Kazakh copper” and the city was one of the biggest copper processing centers. We were housed in the resort place of copper industry workers and we soon attended the friendship meeting of the engineering and technical staff and became acquainted with the industry’s workshops and departments. The industry was engaged in copper processing by anode-cathode method. Small pieces of pure copper were given to us as a gift which I keep as a souvenir even now.

The governing authorities led by deputy chairwoman of the city executive committee offered a reception for us where words of friendship and historic success were announced. This was the first time I tasted the smoked horse meat prepared the Kazakh way and ate the Kazakh “boortsog” very similar to Mongolian “boortsog” (cookies). Chinaagiin Galzan was the only Mongolian who spoke Kazakh and played the dombra musical instrument, this instrument was then was presented to Gansan as a gift. It was raining outside the next day when we got up early in the morning to meet the cosmonauts. Spring came to the Jezkazgan steppe, it was raining, the soil was muddy and we were provided with rain boots. On board the first plane that flew in the southeast direction, to meet the Soviet and Mongolian space cosmonauts, were official members of the Mongolian delegation, and rescue and medical team members. On board the next plane were reporters and journalists. It was cloudy and raining and I was a little bit worried that landing the spaceship might be impossible to watch. “It is raining and cloudy, we have to wait”, said the crew captain. All of a sudden the plane descended and landed. After landing we curiously observed and watched. Everyone was looking with interest into the sky. We waited for about an hour waiting for that most responsible and the most fascinating moment when a strong bursting sound was heard. “What’s that..?”, I’ve asked from a sports officer who was standing nearby. “This is the sound of the launching pad when it opens”,he explained to me. “Very soon the spaceship will land”, they said. I remember hearing earlier that when the spaceship was landing it would start braking from South America. This means the launching pad is very close to us, the thought flashed across my mind. The crew captain ordered us to occupy our places, the plane took off and we flew for some time and then landed again. The operators of the two planes were in permanent contact with each other. It was impossible to watch the landing of cosmonauts in the place where they landed because of rain and clouds. In order to ensure safe landing our planes stayed some distance and the operators continued to communicate with each other. We flew again and when we landed and approached, the launching pad was already on the ground and there was a long yellow instrument lying on the ground. The launching pad weighted 2.5 tones and the site around it occupied 1000 square meters. The rescue team officials, doctors and other experts were there. Our plane landed some distance away and the journalists, reporters and photo reporters started racing to occupy the most convenient place. When we approached the place, cosmonauts Janibekov and Gurragchaa were sitting in chairs with their legs covered with the green blankets. Nobody was allowed to come very close, the security force stretched a safety belt from the launch pad and the cosmonauts. They said that the technical facility released certain amounts of radiation at that moment. So the journalists were protected from that. I was preoccupied with the thought to come to the cosmonauts as close as possible. In a moment, I found myself behind their chairs, then between them asking about their health, congratulating them on their safe and sound landing and welcoming them with the successful space flight. My report about the flight of the cosmonauts to the space and their successful return back to the earth is preserved in the treasure fund of the national public radio of Mongolia. I noticed that the cosmonauts were sweaty and their faces were a little bit red. The Mongolian delegates handed to them “hadag” and a silver cup with milk. Gurragchaa just tasted the milk but Janubekov drank all the milk. The journalists and reporters began to ask questions and the photo reporters switched on the lights of their cameras. The people helped the cosmonauts to stand up and walk to the launching pad where they put their signatures and the date on the pad. Then, assisted by people, the two cosmonauts approached the plane. We occupied the seats in our plane and flew to Jezkazgan. On board the TU-134 from Jezkazgan, together with the cosmonauts, we flew to Baikonur. After a safe return in the plane, the cosmonauts ate the food with a grand appetite. This proved that they felt good, that nothing was left from weightlessness and that cosmonauts could easily be acclimatized to terrestrial conditions. After the meal, a friendly conversation took place between the cosmonauts and journalists. When we landed at Baikonur airport, the surrounding area was lightened and the sounds of welcoming march music were heard. The gathered cheered and applauded when an order was read aloud to grant the titles of hero of the USSR and MPR and the highest State awards to J.Gurragchaa and V.Janibekov. Then, the caravan of cars with cosmonauts moved to the hotel for the cosmonauts situated in the north of Baikonur in the Leninsk town. One of the city streets is being renamed to “Cosmonauts Street”. According to the tradition established since Yuri Gagarin’s flight to space in 1961. The next morning, the two cosmonauts planted a memorial tree. It was the 51st tree planted after the historic space flight of Yuri Gagarin. I am still confident that Gurragchaa was not the last and that another Mongolian will fly to space again. On the same day V.Janibekov and J.Gurragchaa called for a press conference and shared views with journalists about the space flight and their experience. In his interview with the TASS reporters on April 2, the vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Intercosmos Council leader, academician Vladimir Kotelnikov, said the following about the results of the space flight: “Though it is too early to make a final conclusion on the joint Soviet-Mongolian scientific space flight, we can say with full confidence that flight was successful.” After having 7 days rest in the Baikonur space hotel J.Gurragchaa and V.Janibekov returned to Moscow and the Space township.

Y.Sukhbaatar is a graduate of the secondary educational school in Sukhbaatar
Aimag and the class of Russian language and literature of the Mongolian State University. After completing his studies at the University, he started his journalistic career as translator and editor at the MONTSAME Foreign Information Desk of the then State Committee on Information, Radio and Television. Serving
the State for more than 40 years, he worked as a translator in the Mongol language broadcaster editorial office of Radio Moscow Chinese language, editorial staff for national regions, as editor and chief editor of the propaganda desk of Radio Mongolia, as chief of the department of Montsame foreign information desk, and as chief editor and senior editor of the desk.

Source:Mongol Messenger, english weekly newspaper of Montsame newspaper, mongolian news agency


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