The Last Soviet Citizen: How the USSR Left This Cosmonaut Stranded in Space for 311 Days

Sergei Krikalev left for space in 1991 and ended up stuck there for over 300 days thanks to the fall of the USSR. Here's exactly what happened to the cosmonaut.
cosmonaut in space

If you think your mom losing you in the grocery store for five minutes is bad, imagine your country letting you float around in space for almost a year! That’s exactly what happened to this cosmonaut named Segei Krikalev. He went out on a mission and ended up stuck in space for 311 days. 

So how did he get stuck up there for so long? And how was he eventually saved and brought back to Earth? Keep reading to find out!

The Original Plan for the Cosmonaut

Segei Krikalev had prepared all during the spring of 1991 for a five month mission in space. That was the initial time frame he had trained for and planned to embark on. But that was not how it played out at all. By January of 1992, Segei was now stuck in space for eight months and had no clue when he would be able to return home. 

Why This Cosmonaut Ended Up Stuck in Space

The reason Segei couldn’t come home was because the country that was supposed to bring him back, the Soviet Union, no longer existed. 

So by the time the mission was completed, Segei was the last Soviet citizen and was nicknamed the “last citizen of the USSR.” This nickname stemmed from the Soviet Union dissipating in 1991, while Segei was on his five month mission in space after launching in May of 1991. 

Therefore, there were no government funds available to bring him home. Segei return mission fell on the back burner of the government’s priority. While it may have been a political issue to work out his return home, obviously Segei and his family and friends were more concerned for his physical health. The longer he was in space, the more his bone and muscle mass would deteriorate

This mission lasted a total of 311 days – twice as long as it was originally intended to last. Segei finally returned home on March 25, 1992. He had left a Soviet Union citizen and returned home as a Russian citizen. 

The Aftermath of the Cosmonaut’s Mission

When Segei returned home finally in March of 1992, his physical health had taken a toil. He needed assistance walking when he got off the shuttle. But, this mishap didn’t cause Segei to retire. No, no, no. 

Segei flew multiple missions throughout the 1990s. He moved up the ranks to commander in 2005 and was promoted two years later to Director of Human Spaceflight at Roscosmos. 

How Many Days Has the Cosmonaut Spent in Space? 

803 days. He sits behind two other cosmonauts who have spent 827 and 878 days respectively in space.

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