The first astronaut of the independent Ukraine and the issue of the Black Sea Fleet: what happened in 1997

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In 1997, Ukraine flew into space on the space shuttle Columbia and for the first time hosted international naval exercises in the Crimea.

We tell about it in the new issue of the documentary series “30 years of Independence” on the UA TV channel.

Ukraine did not have the funds for its own space flights in the difficult 1990s. But when they managed to reach an agreement with the Americans, they chose the best candidate – Leonid Kadenyuk. At the same time, he received a Ukrainian passport.

“I talked to him. I said: “Leonid Konstantinovich, we would like our mission to be fulfilled by a citizen of Ukraine. A man who comes from Ukraine. It is prestigious for our independent state”. Leonid Kadenyuk agreed, he accepted citizenship” – recalls Eduard Kuznetsov, head of Leonid Kadenyuk’s flight preparation program.

Kadenyuk’s participation was called a political agreement at the presidential level. But for Ukraine it was a very important chance to feel like a space state again.

Kadenyuk was given a flag, a recording of the anthem of Ukraine and the “Kobzar” book. But the unexpected thing happened.

“They took the car for temporary use, took a guide. In one place, in Ontario, they stopped, went to buy either a sandwich or a cup of coffee, and five minutes later they got out, and the car with the equipment and luggage they had prepared for Kadenyuk was stolen! That’s why we urgently had to duplicate everything and send it by courier for check-in” – Eduard Kuznetsov recalled.

The Columbia shuttle was launched on November 19, 1997 from the Kennedy Space Center. Kadenyuk had to study how plants would behave in weightlessness.

For the first time in history, the Ukrainian anthem was played in space. The flight was successfully completed in 15 days.

On the sixth year of independence, in 1997, Ukraine and Russia have at last divided the Black Sea Fleet.

The contract was a complicated one. Over the past six years of uncertainty, there has been nothing but the flight of ships and equipment from country to country, the swearing in of teams and the raising of flags. Military planes of both sides repeatedly took to the air (but without consequences) and there were fights between sailors.