Russia's Space Traditions! 14 Things Every Cosmonaut Does for Launch


S. Corvaja/ESA

The Soyuz rocket lifts off from Baikonur with its three crewmembers aboard. Traditionally, a Russian commands the crew, and all of the systems have instructions in Russian. So astronauts of all nationalities must be very familiar with Russian to safely fly to space. The Soyuz spacecraft takes anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to reach the International Space Station.

NEXT: Achieving Weightlessness

Achieving weightlessness


Russian Soyuz spacecraft always carry a little stuffed animal or other toy that is attached to the spacecraft. When the engines shut off and the spacecraft is in a free fall around Earth, crews will know it because they will see the little toy floating on its tether. Here, a toy R2-D2 from "Star Wars" is shown in the foreground, with NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren in back, waving at the camera.

FINALLY: Arriving at the Space Station

Arriving at the Space Station


The big grin on Thirsk's face in this picture shows it all. After anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days in the cramped Soyuz spacecraft, the three crewmembers dock at the International Space Station and finally have a chance to stretch out. After some quick hellos, the crew gets a safety briefing and then participates in a phone call with anxious families back home. Most crews today stay on the orbiting complex for five or six months, although some stays have stretched as long as a year.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: