UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!





The selection of space crew candidates is still one of the most critical elements in the manned space program of both the Soviet Union as well as the United States. Though many modifications and advances in hardware technology have taken place since the inception of both space programs, the one factor that has not changed and is becoming an even increasing integral component of the space station effort of the U.S.S.R. is man. (20)

As the complexity of scientific experimentation has increased during manned space flights, selection, based primarily on previous flights experience as in the military or civilian sector, is no longer practical. Candidate cosmonauts are currently selected from groups of volunteers having extensive flying experience, as well as from a variety of other appropriate backgrounds. This includes individuals with advanced degrees in medicine, biology, engineering, and physics. (21) The ages of these individuals range from 25 to 45 years and include both sexes. The selection and use of women for space missions will probably continue. (22) Reports have it that the Soviets are training cosmonauts and future scientists from even younger age groups. These teenage individuals begin their training in cosmonautic space clubs. (23)

Rigid medical evaluation is the primary criteria for the preselection of candidates. Based on general medical practices, Soviet cosmonauts undergo a multiteam medical selection process.

The Soviet Union has also emphasized extensive psychological testing, which has taken on even greater importance due to the recent Soviets multicrew, long-duration space observations.

The medical selection of cosmonaut candidates is conducted in three stages. Preliminary screening is performed on an outpatient basis by a battery of medical sub-specialists, representing internal medicine, neurology, ophthalmology, ear-nose-throat, endocrinology, and other medical specialties. As in any in depth physical examination, a medical history of the individual is compiled. Based on the clinical and historical data, an evaluation board consisting of the aforementioned sub-specialists then recommend whether the candidate is suitable and should continue in the selection process. (24)

The second stage of the medical selection process requires the individual to undergo extensive clinical evaluations. During this time, an in depth medical history reevaluation takes place in an attempt to exclude hereditary disorder trends, as well as recurring pathological conditions, particularly of such organ systems as the circulatory, respiratory, urinary, intestinal tract and skeletal system. (25)

The physical examination employs the usual hands-on evaluation as well as the most up-to-date technological processes including both roentgenography and endoscopy, when indicated, as well as various forms of electrocardiography. Laboratory tests are very extensive ranging from complete blood cell counts to other hematological evaluations. Detailed blood chemistry is performed, encompassing most recognized medical significant enzyme and immune parameters. An extensive neurological evaluation includes motor coordination, sensory and reflex functions of the nervous system, as well as skull roentgenography and electroencephalography. (26)

Complete psychological testing includes many of the recognized analyses and recently developed tests.27 The Soviets' experiences in orbital station operations has mandated the need for significant psychological testing. (28) New trends in space psychology such as psychological support during the flight and selection of compatible crews has gained great favor. During the training process, emphasis is continually placed on psychological evaluation and selection in order to find individuals particularly suited for professional work with specific space equipment. A more detailed discussion of this process will be covered later.

An otolaryngological examination includes exo and endoscopy, roentgenography of the nasal sinuses, as well as auditory and vestibular function. In view of the early recognition by the Soviets of the balance and orientation difficulties encountered during the early stages of a space flight, they have placed great emphasis on evaluating the candidates' vestibular system. (See p. 686 for a more detailed discussion). A more functional examination includes physiological effects of moderate degrees of hypoxia concurrent with recordings of EKG and arterial pressure. This is followed by a "dive" test to evaluate adequate acclimation of the ears and nasal sinuses to changes in barometric pressure. Tests of cardiac function include various parameters of cardiac rhythm during orthostatics (erect posture) and antiorthostatic tests. Physical load studies on the candidates are performed by means of bicycle ergometry. During this interval of testing, pulmonary function as well as cystolic and diastolic blood pressure recovery are evaluated. This is followed by numerous electroencephalograms and other instrumentational evaluations of the nervous, circulatory and cardiac system, as well as numerous vestibular stability tests. The ability to withstand centrifugal forces both in the direction of "head-toe" as well as "chestback" are evaluated. The Soviets continue to stress load testing in the selection of cosmonaut trainees. (29)

Based on medical and stress testing, the evaluation board either selects the individual for cosmonaut training; postpones selection until certain physiological abnormalities can be treated; or rejects the candidate based on unsatisfactory responses that are not rectifiable over a short time frame.


The final stage of the selection process is conducted at the Yu A. Gagarin Center for Cosmonaut Training. (30) A senior medical evaluation commission bases its decision both on physical and psychological results. Selection is then confirmed by the Chief Medical Commission of the U.S.S.R., comprised of the leading specialists in clinical and space medicine. All serious psychological illnesses are grounds for rejection. In individual cases, if the candidate possesses certain technical (research) attributes that are required for the mission, efforts are made to treat certain psychological abnormalities. Selection for cosmonaut training may be made following at least 1 year of complete recovery. Such a selection process, on an individual basis, may also be done in cases when the individual cosmonaut-researchers are judged cured of an infectious or noninfectious disease.

In general individuals are judged unsuitable for cosmonaut training if disorders are found in psychic, nervous, anatomic, or infectious parameters, including venereal, cardiac, ear-nose-throat, ophthalmologic, and skin disorders. (31)



Since the early 1960s, the majority of cosmonaut training is carried out at Star City (Zvezdny Gorodok, 19 miles from Moscow). The Soviet cosmonauts at this facility include cosmonauts preparing for future space missions as well as cosmonauts from previous missions serving in management, and instructor roles. Gen. G. Beregovoy is the commander of this training facility. The Soviets claim that the cosmonaut contingent is represented by equal numbers of military and civilian trainees. (32)

The international cosmonaut program, under the direction of U.S.S.R.'s Interkosmos Council includes the integrated collaborative flight programs of the Soviet bloc countries. More recently this collaboration has been enlarged to include joint space missions of non-soviet bloc countries such as France and India. (33)

The training facilities at Star City include Salyut flight simulators, two Soyuz simulators (the basic Soyuz manned transport vehicle and a newly modified Soyuz T). The training of foreign cosmonauts for joint space flights includes rigorous 1.5 to 2 year training at Star City and other facilities within the Soviet Union. These latter facilities provide specialized high altitude, underwater and stress physiology training. One significant difference, according to Western sources, in approach to the training practices of the Soviet Union and the United States, is that the former's training does not involve the distribution of basic documentation such as systems manuals. Rather the cosmonauts develop their own notes and refer back to them during the mission. (34) The U.S.S.R. also places great emphasis in its training program on repetition in the form of lectures by specialists on a particular subject matter, which is repeated at various times throughout the program. (35)

The Soviets still adhere to the concept that the cosmonaut must be able to function at several levels; namely to fly the spacecraft, to provide onboard servicing of the various critical systems, and to participate in some aspects of the specific mission. However, as advancements in mission requirements have progressed, one sees the strengthening of the involvement of pilot and crew concept, with the latter responsible for carrying out of detailed technical experimentation. (36)

The various training protocols for Soviet cosmonauts still demand rigorous physiological and psychological stress training, in those areas of space flight considered critical for the successful accomplishment of the mission. In particular, based on actual experience gained in prior manned space flights, training emphasis is placed in areas considered to be the most troublesome to the cosmonaut. The overriding problem influencing all training efforts is to moderate, if possible, the effects of weightlessness on physiological wellbeing.37 Since the inception of manned space flight a rather specific series of problem areas have been defined. These are all related in some degree or other to the weightless state and consist of motion sickness, circulatory deconditioning, red blood cell mass loss and bone demineralization. In addition, isolation may be a serious psychological problem. (38)

An issue still under active debate is whether and to what degree the cosmonaut should be physically conditioned. Is maximum physical conditioning a benefit or a disadvantage in tolerating the variety of physiological stresses posed by weightlessness and subsequent return to Earth? (39, 40) Can the cosmonaut readapt more readily to Earth's gravity if he is less physically trained, because he does not decondition as significantly during sace flights?


In order to prepare the cosmonaut, as much as possible, for the rigors of space flight, a variety of conditioning programs are practiced. These include vestibular, visual, acceleration, weightlessness, survival and psychological training.

A major problem encountered by both Soviet cosmonauts and U.S. astronauts has been vestibular disorders or space motion sickness (SMS) (space adaptation syndrome in U.S. terminology). The etiology of this disorder is still not fully understood. However, the Soviets encountered this difficulty in 1961 aboard the Vostok 2 flight. (41) At that time cosmonaut Titov reported periods of disorientation and nausea. In view of this initial observation, the Soviets have devoted extensive pre-flight training time and have utilized

exposure to preflight vestibular stress in selecting cosmonauts less prone to motion sickness. Pre-flight training is directed at utilizing both passive and active exposure to increase vestibular tolerance and is tailored to the individual cosmonaut. Active conditioning is a process where the individual cosmonaut participates in specific strenuous physical exercises as well as using gymnastic equipment. Passive conditioning includes the cosmonaut only in the sense that he is strapped into or is otherwise an integral component of a piece of equipment that is mechanically activated and either rotates about several axes or in some manner stresses the vestibular and optical system.42 The Soviets report that this conditioning reduces gastrointestinal SMS.43 In Soviet spaceflights involving the Salyut 6 space station, active vestibular ground stress training has been supplemented by active prophylactic intervention. (44, 45, 46) A detailed discussion on the motion sickness countermeasures employed will be presented later, see p. 724, dealing with gravitational influences on manned space missions.

All aspects of the training program are directed at adapting the individual cosmonaut, as much as possible, to subsequent space stress condition by repeated exposure, with gradual increased intensity, to a variety of these external stimuli. In all instances, individual physical, psychological, and physiological profiles are taken into consideration in order to arrive at exposure and optimal load conditions appropriated for each cosmonaut. (47)

In order to provide the individual cosmonaut with the capacity to adapt to transverse acceleration during space flight, particularly during initial liftoff or other phases of rapid acceleration, extensive familiarization runs are made in human centrifuges. During such an exposure, individual tolerance levels are significantly increased to transverse acceleration stress, as is the capacity of the cosmonaut to develop the ability to respond to such a stress and thereby reduce its adverse impact. This is augmented by means of cosmonaut leg muscle tensing, and abdominal and thoracic breathing. Centrifugal forces are increased gradually over periodic exposures during a 2-month interval. The Soviet cosmonauts have been exposed to transverse G forces up to 10G. (48) Soviet scientists have demonstrated that gradual increasing G force exposure is effective in enhancing tolerance levels. They also suggest that the best responses have been attained when G forces are gradually increased, concomitant with gradual greater time intervals between G force exposure. (49)

Although weightlessness for any length of time is not readily reproduced on Earth, it can be replicated for short intervals by aircraft flights along Keplerian (parabolic) trajectories. The use of such flights for conditioning purposes have been used since the late 1950s both by the United States and the Soviet Union. (50) These studies have proven that human response is individualistic, but that repeated exposure of individuals does permit a degree of adaptation even for individuals who initially have a low tolerance.

Soviet investigators have demonstrated that individuals who are experienced flight personnel in general are more tolerant to short term weightless exposure and adapt more readily during repeated exposure than do non flight personnel. (51) These types of studies, as well as experience in space flight over the past 20 years, have led some Soviet and space scientists to conclude that short term exposure of space flight personnel to parabolic flight trajectories are beneficial both for training purposes as well as to determining predisposition to vestibular disorders. (52)

An integral component of acceleration and vstibular training is visual perception training. The eye is thought to be a contributing sensory factor associated with SMS. (53, 54)

Physical conditioning demands have been lowered and the age of acceptable candidates raised. In particular, such requirements as spatial orientation and visual perception training was lowered for science crewmembers, since the latter would not have a primary requirement to pilot the spacecraft. However, tolerance to G forces, and vestibular stability are still a major requirement for all crew-members. (55)

Training protocols aid the cosmonaut in learning how to operate the spacecraft prior to actually going into space. This assures that a variety of experiences and sensations are simulated and recognized during the training phase of the program, thereby allowing the cosmonaut to respond in emergency situations in a similar manner to that while undergoing training. Weightlessness was first simulated by using a swimming pool. Currently a special hydraulic laboratory has been developed. This facility monitored visually via television and other electronic means during the time the cosmonauts are submerged in a pool in their Salyut and/or Soyuz simulator 12 meters below the surface. In addition, the cosmonaut training center now utilizes a IL-76 aircraft which permits the trainee brief exposure to zero gravity. (56)

Additionally newer facilities are available to acquaint the cosmonauts with expected flight conditions. These include a space planetarium to familiarize them with celestial bodies used for space navigation. (57) This facility also permits them to become familiar with the use of celestial bodies that will be studied as part of the scientific programs. Since the amount of research carried out in space increases continually and since the same individuals may be required to perform a multitude of such studies, it is absolutely necessary that they be adequately trained on Earth. The Soviets also seem to incorporate into cosmonaut training an understanding and appreciation of the Marxist-Leninist principles, which provide not only the technical rationale for the mission, but also social and political reasons. (58)

As space missions have increased in duration and interplanetary flights seem more feasible, the process of selection and training of cosmonauts has evolved into both training of the body and mind. The crew of a spacecraft should consist of individuals who are compatible.

Despite the selection and training process, psychological tensions between crewmembers do develop. (59) Therefore, appreciable training time is devoted to the behavioral areas, including response to emergency conditions potentially encountered in space. Since individuals are confined for long intervals in limited quarters under conditions requiring special safety and life support systems a detailed psychoanalysis of the individuals who would be most compatible in such environments is necessary. To accomplish this type of psychological selection and training, individuals are frequently subjected to multiple and sequential stresses such as heat, humidity, cold, and isolation.

Factors that determine group psychology and compatibility are analyzed. These include intellectual abilities, and likes and dislikes. It is very important that members of a group have a positive attitude toward each other and are willing to cooperate and con form in order to accomplish their mission. (60)

Newer methods of evaluating stress responses are being investigated. These include brain scans, voice stress tests, and changes in circulatory endocrine levels. As techniques for quantifying physiological and psychological stress responses improve, the selection, and training of cosmonauts, as well as modification of the space capsule environment, may become more of a quantitative science. (61)

It has become apparent from prior space flights of multiple crews on Salyut-6 that psychological support for the crew during space flights of long duration is highly effective in maintaining motivation and emotional stability. The psychological support program is based on a series of informational exchanges and conversations between the cosmonauts and ground control, family members, scientific and technical specialists, as well as entertainers and politicians. (62) All of these support activities are, of course, also utilized during psychological stress training practiced on the ground which attempt to emotionally prepare the cosmonaut for the unexpected.

Soviet training programs prepare the individual for stresses other than crisis, such as isolation, boredom and confinement. The Soviet philosophy in this area of training is based on the supposition that equipment reliability is not limitless. The ultimate success of a mission may very well depend on the psychological fine tuning of the cosmonaut. (63) Therefore, they incorporate the various forms of stress training such as underwater tank diving, centrifugation, altitude chamber rides, isolation, parachuting, and survival training in their overall emotional and physical conditioning programs. The cosmonauts' parachute training involves at least 100 jumps of increasing difficulty. Trainees initially must count to 20 seconds prior to opening their parachutes. This is followed by requiring them to go through a check list during free fall. Later, they must await ground control approval prior to opening their parachutes. Survival tests include depositing of the cosmonauts and their space capsule trainer in remote, environmentally hostile areas where they are left to their own devices to survive and return to safer terrain. This training has reaped benefits. (64) For example, during the 175-day Salyut 6 flight, a radio-telescope antenna jammed during the jettison or deployment procedure, so that it blocked one of the station's two ports. The two cosmonauts, Ryumin and Lyakhov, suggested that they manually jettison the antenna. After much reluctance on the part of ground control personnel, the cosmonauts finally prevailed, and completed an unscheduled extravehicular procedure which saved the space station for subsequent missions. (65) The Soviets, as previously mentioned, have placed emphasis on formal psychological training. This is apparent by their incorporation of psychological monitoring equipment aboard spacecraft, including electronic equipment which monitors tension and mood changes by voice harmonics analysis and changes in facial gestures .(66)



20.Yeliseyev, A. Soviet Cosmonautics in the Eighties. Soviet Life, Apr. 1981, p. 62-63.

21. Link, M. M., et al. Selection of Astronauts and Cosmonauts, In Foundations of Space Biology and Medicine 3, 1975, p. 419-437.

22. Sanoy, P. The Journey Out and In. Psychiatry and Space Exploration. American Journal of Psychiatry. 140, 1983, p. 519-527.

23. Bednyakova, 0. The Cosmodrome in the Heart of Moscow. Soviet Life. Apr. 1981, p. 18-21.

24. Link, M. M., et al. Selection of Astronauts and Cosmonauts, op. cit.

25. Ibid.

26. Link, M. M., et al. Selection of Astronauts and Cosmonauts, op. cit.

27. Gazenko, 0. G. Psychological Compatibility on Earth and in Outer Space, Aviation Space, and Environmental Medicine. June 1980, p. 622-623.

28. Lomov, Boris, U.S.S.R. Social Science. Psychological Aspects of Space Flights, 11, No. 2, 1980, p. 96-103.

29. Bluth, B. J. Space Science. Soviet Space Stress, No. 2. Sept. 1981. p. 30-35.

30. Link, M. M., et al. Selection of Astronauts and Cosmonauts, op. cit.

31. Ibid.

32. Lenorovitz, J. M. Soviet Cosmonaut Training at Star City. Aviation Week and Space Technology. Aug.9,1982, p.44-46.

33. Ibid.

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid.

36. Rukavishnikov, N. N., et al. The Cosmonaut as a Researcher. Moscow, "Inaniye" Press 1973, p. 64. (NASA TT-F-15, 196).

37. Bluth, B. J. Soviet Space Stress, op. cit.

38. Gazenko, 0. G., A. M. Genin, and A. D. Egorov. Summary of Medical Investigations in the U.S.S.R. Manned Space Missions. ACTA Astronautica 8, 1981, p. 907-917.

39. Beregovoy, J. T. Soviet Cosmonaut Training Center Reviewed. Zemlya i Vselennaya No. 5, 1980. pp.15-19.

40. Bodde, T. The Body's Answer to Zero Gravity. Bioscience 32, 1982. pp. 249-252.

41. Soviet Space Programs (Ch. Four. The Soviet Space Life Sciences), op. cit.

42. Ibid.

43. Shatalov, V. Motion Sickness View. Aviation Week and Space Technology, Dec. 20, 1982, p.22.

44. Link, M. M. and N. N. Gurovskiu. Training of Cosmonauts and Astronauts. Journal of Space Biology and Medicine, 1975. pp. 438-450.

45. Molina-Negro, P., et al. The Role of the Vestibular System in Relation to Muscle Tone and Postural Reflex in Man. Acta Otolaryngol, 1980, 89, 524-533.

46. Nicogoasian, A. E., et al. Space Physiology and Medicine. NASA SP-447, 1982.

47. Bluth, B. J., Soviet Space Stress, op. cit.

48. Link, M. M. and N. N. Gurovskiu. Training of Cosmonauts and Astronauts.

50. Ibid.

51. Kolosov, I. A. Human, Statokinetic Reactions during Brief Weightlessness. Izv. Acad. Nauk SSSR Biol., 1969 p. 736-741.

52. Yuganov, Ye M. and A. I. Gorshkov. Characteristics of the Functional State of the Otolithic Apparatus under Conditions of Altered Gravity. NASA TT-F-616, 1970.

53. Crosby, T. N., and R. S. Kennedy. Postural Disequilibrium and Simulator Sickness Following Flights in a P3-C Operational Flight Trainer. Aeronautical Medical Association Meeting, 1982, p. 147-148.

54. Nikolayev, A. Space Road Without End. Moscow "Molodaya Gyardiya" Press, 1974, p. 42-46.

55. Saiki, H., et al. Effect Physical Fitness and Training on Physiological Response to Hypogravity. ACTA Astro. 8, 1981. p. 959-965.

56. Beregovoy, G. T., Soviet Cosmonaut Training Center Reviewed, op. cit.

57. Ibid.

58. Ibid.

59. Ducrocq, A. The Terrible Return. Air et Cosmos 52-63, Paris, Dec. 18, 1982.

60. Mel'nikov, L. N. Psychological Relief Rooms. Mashinostroitel No. 1, 1978

61. Ibid.

62. Myasnikov, V. I. and 0. P. Kozerenko. Prevention of Psychoemotional Disturbances During Long Term Space Flights by Means of Psychological Support. Kosmicheskaya Biologiya I Aviakosmicheskaa Meditsina No. 2. 1981. p. 25-29

63. Ibid.

64. Bluth, B. J., Space Science, op. cit.

65. Ibid.

66. Ibid.

Page last modified: 10-04-2016 19:05:24 ZULU