What Happened to the Astronaut Who Was Lost in Space for 311 Lonely Days?

While tanks were rolling through Moscow’s Red Square, people built barricades on bridges, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union went the way of history, Sergei Krikalev was in space. 350 km away from Earth, the Mir space station was his temporary home.

He was nicknamed “the last citizen of the USSR.” When the Soviet Union broke apart into 15 separate states in 1991, Krikalev was told that he could not return home because the country that had promised to bring him back home no longer existed.

Four months earlier, Krikalev, a 33-year-old flight engineer, had set off for the Mir space station from the Soviet Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is located in Kazakhstan. Krikalev’s mission was supposed to last five months, and his training had not prepared him to be in space longer than this.

Then the coup d’état happened. “For us, this came as a complete surprise,” Krikalev would recall. “We did not understand what was happening. When we were discussing it, we tried to understand how it would affect the space industry.”

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