As it turns out, Anna Kikina will become a cosmonaut after all.
The only woman among Russia’s most recent candidates, Kikina was originally excluded from joining the cosmonaut corps when the new class was announced June 16. That decision has now been overturned, a spokesman for Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, told the Interfax news service.
“She was left in the group as a candidate cosmonaut,” the spokesman said.
Kikina, who is a 29-year-old engineer and economist, was among the eight candidates chosen in 2012 to begin basic training to be a cosmonaut. Two years later, on what, just by coincidence, was the anniversary of Russia launching the first woman to fly in space, Kikina was expelled by an interagency panel.
“The commission carefully examined the outcomes of the training … and eventually made a majority decision against assigning the test cosmonaut qualification to Kikina,” said Alexander Kaleri, the director of the aerospace corporation RSC Energia’s research center and a veteran cosmonaut.
Kaleri told reporters June 23 that Kikina and her fellow candidates had been warned that “eliminations were likely,” as the plan had been to recruit only five new cosmonauts. The commission, in the end, approved six of the men. The seventh man, 32-year-old Ignat Ignatov, was disqualified after he failed a medical exam.
No specific reason was offered publicly for why Kikina had been rejected.
In reporting that Kikina had been reinstated, Interfax cited an unnamed industry source as saying she would need to complete another year of training before becoming eligible for a spaceflight. The added preparation, the source noted, would be with other trainees and could see her serving as team commander for water landing and survival exercises.
If Kikina does eventually fly into space, she stands to be just the fifth Russian woman to do so. To date, Valentina Tereshkova, Svetlana Savitskaya and Yelena Kondakova have entered orbit. Yelena Serova, who was selected as a cosmonaut in 2006, is slated to launch on her first mission in September.
Serova’s flight to the International Space Station will make her only the 58th woman in history to leave Earth out of the more than 500 worldwide space explorers.
The six men who trained with Kikina and who are now test cosmonauts are Oleg Blinov, Nikolai Chub, Pyotr Dubrov, Andrei Fedyaev, Sergei Korsakov and Dimitri Petelin. The group ranges in age from 30 to 36. They are all mechanical or software engineers, with the exception of Fedyaev, who is a military pilot.
Robert Z. Pearlman is editor of CollectSPACE.com.