The new Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina will become the symbol of the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the flight of Yuri Gagarin who on April 12, 1961 became the first man of space. And Anna will perform together with Barbie created for the occasion by the Mattel company embodying the image of the only woman in the team of Russian cosmonauts. Made in two versions, one with a pilot’s uniform and the other with a spacewalking suit. The doll – he explained in an interview – clearly shows that anyone who wants and is willing to make their dreams come true has the opportunity to become a cosmonaut. Not all girls who play with a Barbie will want to become cosmic women, but the most important thing is that everyone knows that they can and have the right to choose any profession.
The story of 36-year-old Anna Kikina demonstrates how easy it is to climb to the stars in Russia. Anna had already earned two degrees at the University of Novosibirsk, in engineering and economics, but she had the passion of a journalist and during an experience at Radio Siberia a colleague told her that the Russian space agency was about to recruit a new group of cosmonauts. Willing soon too, he replied. I realized instantly that it could be true – he added – and only then did the idea of becoming a cosmonaut entered my head.
It was 2012 and 304 candidates were selected from the thousands of applications, including 43 women. In the end they chose eight and only one woman, Anna Kikina. It was the fifth to prepare for the great leap after the legendary Valentina Tereskova who was the first to go into orbit in 1963, symbol of the Soviet Union superpower where even a simple sports paratrooper could travel beyond the atmosphere. The last, Elena Serova would have flown in 2014. Many others had been selected over the years. Some well prepared had become official reserves but always remained on the ground, sometimes mysteriously disappearing from the scene. A few others were pursued by envious criticism; like Elena Kondakova, considered favorite because she married Valery Ryumin, cosmonaut and vice president of the largest state space company RSC Energia. For about ten years in Russia we have been looking to the Moon for a future colony and for this reason in 2017 the Sirius isolation test began simulating a mission in which Kikina was also the protagonist. Negotiations were underway between Moscow and Washington to jointly build the Gateway lunar station shared by eight nations including Italy. But discussions were getting more and more difficult and last month the Kremlin signed an agreement with Beijing to build a Russian-Chinese station around the moon.
The next step will be a surface base like the one in preparation for NASA. Kikina after ten years of waiting will make the first flight next year on the Iss station and then we will see her walking on the impalpable gray sands. There are about thirty cosmonauts on duty in Russia and last January in the last selection among 2,229 candidates, 64 finalists emerged, including nine women. But in the end, only four men were deemed suitable. 65 women flew into space; about fifty are American, four Russian. After 60 years, I am still alone in the body of cosmonauts – underlines Anna Kikina -. I hope that others are preferred in the next recruitments. Meanwhile, the Russian Barbie comes to the rescue (one had also been prepared for Samantha Cristoforetti) who for the moment will be the prize in a competition launched by the Roscosmos space agency to remember the pioneer Gagarin.
April 3, 2021 (change April 8, 2021 | 21:23)