History of Conquest: ‘the Armenian space’ – form aeronauts to astronauts

History of Conquest: ‘the Armenian space’ – form aeronauts to astronauts

Photo: www.wikipedia.org

Gagarin’s Vostok spaceship (on space rocket R7) in Moscow

April 12 marked 50 years since the first human made a journey into outer space. In 1961 Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made a circle around the planet Earth in his spaceship Vostok in 1 hour and 48 minutes, and, after landing, became the most famous person on earth.
James Philip Bagian made 80 circuits around the planet Earth


And when the famed cosmonaut spoke of those who put him in space, a name he said often was Andranik Iosifyan – an Armenian scientist whose work was linked to nearly every Soviet space endeavor. Iosifyan was the chief constructor of electrical equipment of ballistic rockets, atomic submarines, spacecrafts and satellites Omega and Meteor. Yuri Gagarin in his speeches confidently made references to his researches: “Iosifyan’s works on adjusting and using space satellites are paving a path for the future creation of world weather forecast satellites.”

In fact, Armenians have always liked flying. In the 19th century in Europe there was a famous aeronaut of Armenian descent Alexander Topchian. In 1909 his successor Artem Katsian participated in the first aviation contest in Germany. By the break-out of WWI the number of Armenian pilots could rightfully claim to be called “a national air squadron”.

And nevertheless, Armenians wanted their very own Conqueror of the Universe. He could be called a “cosmonaut” (as in the Soviet Union) or an “astronaut” (as in the USA) for all it mattered, but he had to be “theirs”.

And, finally, it happened. On March 13, 1989, astronaut James Bagian – offspring of an Armenian family of emigrants in the United States – flew to outer space from Cape Canaveral.

He made 80 circuits around the planet Earth and covered a total distance of 3 million and 219 thousand kilometers. The flight took him 4 days 23 hours 39 minutes and 41 seconds. The crew was able to watch the planet Earth from the maximal distance of 308 kilometers.

The news immediately traveled around the world and appeared in Soviet Armenian and foreign newspapers. A wingside spectator might have thought that the nation had been preparing for that event for all of its history. Maybe, that was the case indeed…

The future astronaut was born in 1952 in Philadelphia. His parents had moved to the United States from Trabzon. As James himself said his “grandfather was native of Artsakh” (another name for Nagorno-Karabakh).

His passion for aviation was no accident: James’ father Philip was a pilot, who was among the 18,500 Armenian Americans serving in the US army during WWII and was a distinguished participant of the war.

For his courage Philip obtained the rank of Major, and was awarded with the Order of the Red Cross. His son James participated in numerous aviation contests since the age of 22, and in 1980 became a member of a group of American astronauts.

James Bagian was versatile. Besides being a pilot, he was also specialized in medicine, engineering, and sports. He was the first certified doctor to fly to the open space.

It is noteworthy that the scientific experiments carried out by James Bagian in the state of zero-gravity were based on his compatriot, Laureate of the USSR State Awards, academician Norair Sisakyan’s research.

It was Sisakyan who in mid 20th century laid the first stone in the “disciplines of the future”, such as molecular, radiation and space biology. A crater on the Moon was named after him and his name is on a memorial plaque on the UNESCO building in Paris.

In June of 1991 James Bagian conquered space for the second time, and again it was his compatriots - chief engineer of Norton Company Joan Yazedjian-Poghosian and the person in charge of NASA’s life support, doctor Arnold Nikoghosian – who assisted him in his preparations for the flight.