Valery Ryumin, Who Set Endurance Record in Space, Dies at 82
A Soviet cosmonaut, he spent 362 days in flight on three missions. He returned 18 years later on a U.S. shuttle to the Mir space station.
Valery Ryumin, a Soviet tank commander who became a cosmonaut and spent more than a year in space, setting endurance records — and then, after 18 years, took another flight, this time on a U.S. space shuttle — died on Monday. He was 82.
The Russian federal space corporation, Roscosmos, announced his death. Dmitry Rogozin, the corporation’s director, called Mr. Ryumin’s death “an irreparable loss” but did not say where he died or cite a cause.
Mr. Ryumin’s first mission, on Soyuz 25, was supposed to last 90 days. But it ended after only two when the vehicle failed to dock with the Salyut 6 orbital space station.
On his next two missions, Mr. Ryumin and his crewmates set space endurance records: 175 days with Vladimir Lyakbov on Soyuz 32 in 1979 and 185 days with Leonid Popov on Soyuz 35 in 1980.
Those early flights were considered invaluable for their scientific advances. They were also grist for propaganda.
Mr. Ryumin and his crew conducted experiments that included testing gamma-ray telescopes and hatching quail eggs. They hosted the first Cuban, Hungarian and Vietnamese cosmonauts at the space station and appeared live on a video screen at a Moscow stadium during the 1980 Summer Olympics.
By the time Mr. Ryumin retired in 1980, after his third mission, he had logged 362 days in space, a record for any cosmonaut or astronaut at the time.
From 1981 to 1989, Mr. Ryumin was flight director for the Salyut 7 space station (which went awry in 1985 and was retrieved by the Soviets in a rescue that became the basis for the 2017 Russian film “Salyut 7”) and the Mir space station. He later directed the Russian portion of the shuttle-Mir program, the first collaboration between NASA and the Russian space agency.
In 1998, 18 years after his third and presumably final flight, Mr. Ryumin applied to join the crew of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery STS-91. The shuttle was scheduled to dock with the Russian space station Mir, which had been orbiting for 12 years.
“After my three flights in the ’80s, I was thinking it would be nice to fly for the fourth time,” he said in an interview with NASA two months before the launch.
“I thought it would be very useful for a person who has very good flight and life experience to visit the station,” he added. “I believe that I will be able to see more details and more things compared to young cosmonauts or crew members.”
Mr. Ryumin had to lose about 55 pounds to qualify for the mission. Discovery docked with Mir in June 1998; he spent four days on the space station before returning home, having recorded a total of 371 days in space in all four missions.
“During these joint operations during the Phase 1 program, we learned a lot,” he said. “We learned how to understand each other. We got acquainted with the philosophies of each country.”
Valery Victorovich Ryumin was born on Aug. 16, 1939, in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in the Russian Far East. He graduated from the Kaliningrad Mechanical Engineering Technical College in 1958.
He was an army tank commander from 1958 to 1961 and earned a degree in electronics and computing technology in 1965 from the Moscow Forest Engineering Institute, where he specialized in spacecraft control systems.
After working for the Rocket and Space Corporation, Mr. Ryumin joined the cosmonaut corps in 1973. He was twice named a Hero of the Soviet Union.
Survivors include his wife, Yelena Kondakova, a fellow cosmonaut; their daughter, Yevgeniya; and two children, Viktoria and Vadim, from an earlier marriage, to Natalya Ryumina.
While he was a graduate student, Mr. Ryumin was training with the company that had manufactured the first Sputnik satellite. But, he said in the NASA interview, he never dreamed that someday he too would be orbiting Earth.
“In those times it was like a big fantasy, and I never could imagine that I would have to do this, what I did,” he said. “I never could dream about it.
“Now children can dream and they can say, since an early age, ‘I’m going to be an astronaut or cosmonaut,’” he added. “People of my generation couldn’t dream about it, because they did not know what to dream about at the time.”