BTA interview

site.btaFirst Romanian Cosmonaut Prunariu: Georgi Ivanov's Flight Was Heroic

First Romanian Cosmonaut Prunariu: Georgi Ivanov's Flight Was Heroic
First Romanian Cosmonaut Prunariu: Georgi Ivanov's Flight Was Heroic
Dumitru Prunariu (personal archive)

Georgi Ivanov's flight into space was heroic, said Dumitru Prunariu for BTA. He is the only citizen of Romania and another Balkan country, with the exception of forerunner Bulgaria, who has flown into outer space.

"Georgi Ivanov - the first to fly from our group, had less time to prepare, but he used it very intensively. For him, the preparation was very difficult, because in a very short time he had to learn a lot of things. The big problem was that the spaceship betrayed him a little. There was a malfunction, and we all stood with a lump in our throat, waiting to see how it would end. But history made Georgi Ivanov the first Bulgarian cosmonaut, although he failed to dock with the Salyut 6 space station, Prunariu recalls.  Two years after Georgi Ivanov, on May 14, 1981, he became the first and only Romanian to fly into space.

Two years after Georgi Ivanov, on May 14, 1981, he became the first and only Romanian to fly in space.

Dumitru Prunariu gave an exclusive interview for BTA just before the official presentation of the new issue of BTA’s LIK magazine, "The Bulgarian Footprint in Space", which took place on April 22 in Sofia and in the 36 press clubs of the Agency across the country and abroad.

Q: Mr. Prunariu, you are the first Romanian to fly into space. You spent 7 days, 20 hours and 42 minutes there. Describe to us what it was like to explore the universe among the stars and closer to God?

A: It sounds very grand - "among the stars and closer to God". It's true that when Earth's gravity disappears, in nine minutes you revolve around the Earth at 208,000 km/h. It is sensational. Emotions are intense. Not so much because something bad can happen, but because you understand that what you do is a premiere - both for you and for your country.

Q: You've been preparing for your first space flight for three years. Did you draw inspiration from the experience of your Bulgarian colleague and friend Georgi Ivanov? When and how did you meet?

A: We met in the Star City, in March 1978, when everyone from the second group of the Interkosmos space program got there, on the territory of Russian cosmonauts. We got apartments, we lived with our families there, we got to know each other very well.  Our wives helped each other. Everyone was learning to cook a dish from another country for our colleagues. Our cuisines are very close. And somehow we got along. The truth is that Georgi Ivanov, the first to fly from our group, had less time to prepare, but he used it very intensively. For him, the preparation was very difficult, because in a very short time he had to learn a lot of things. The big problem was that the spacecraft betrayed him a little, if I may say so. There was a malfunction and we all stood with a lump in our throat, waiting to see how this would end...

It was a heroic space flight. Effective. Both cosmonauts - Georgi Ivanov and Nikolai Rukavishnikov, went through some very difficult moments, extremely tense, in which they did not know whether they would return to Earth alive. But history made Georgi Ivanov the first Bulgarian cosmonaut, although he failed to dock with the Salyut 6 space station. We continued to cheer for his exceptional experience as we continued with our preparation.

Q: Imagine that Georgi Ivanov is next to you at the moment. What are you going to tell him?

A:  First of all, I will congratulate him on the anniversary of his flight into space. We know him, his wife and children. We'll talk about our families. What has happened in our lives. He is older than me and in recent years he has been less involved in international activities related to cosmonauts. We have an association for space exploration, within which we meet every year. About 80-90-100 astronauts-cosmonauts with their families. George did not participate in the last congresses, but I would tell him what our mutual friends are doing. And those across the Ocean, and those from Europe and from the East. In any case, my relationship with him is very direct, friendly. It's like we've always known each other.

Q: Can Bulgaria and Romania cooperate in the field of cosmonautics?

A: They could, of course. Let's not forget that in the period when we flew in space, when there was the Interkosmos program, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and several Romanian research institutes collaborated with each other. Collaborations in various areas related to space - ranging from research related to human behavior, medicine, space operations to space technology, the use of certain apparatus. Such things existed. There is now greater cooperation within the European Space Agency. And of course. for certain specific projects we could become partners.

I know very well how Bulgaria’s space activity has evolved ever since the flight of Georgi Ivanov, and then of Alexander Alexandrov. I have visited Bulgaria often. I have met with specialists from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, some of them are unfortunately no longer among us. I even met with the President of Bulgaria within the framework of a congress many years ago and told him that Bulgaria should join the European Space Agenc, so that we can develop together, at European level, space programs. And now at the meetings we meet our Bulgarian colleagues, much younger than me, but I contribute with experience. They are part of certain structures that promote Bulgaria's interests at international level, including in the field of research and space industry.

Q: You said you have been to Bulgaria. What did you like the most?

A: Oh, it's very hard to say. First of all, the people, if I have to be honest, because they are very hardworking, very similar to us. We have a common history, common traditions, common dishes. And I prefer the Shopska salad in Bulgaria, not in Romania (laughs). Beyond that, my sons, for example, often went skiing in Bulgaria. They did not go to Poiana Brasov or other parts of Romania, they went to Bulgaria. Many times I have vacationed at the Black Sea in Bulgaria, in Albena. Many times I cross the border just to eat in a good restaurant in Bulgaria, on the beach.

(The second part of the interview with the first Romanian cosmonaut Dumitru Prunariu will be available on April 23rd).

/MR/

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By 18:50 on 23.05.2024 Today`s news

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