Right. What is the meaning of this picture? I guess I left that out of my last post.
The Hobonaut of Baikonur is, I hope, a painting that will become dated. It raises the question of who really won The Space Race, and is it over yet? If you’re an astro-nut like me, you should recognize the launch area of the Baikonur Cosmodrome (my wife’s father was an engineer at Johnson Space Center during the Apollo program, so she recognized it immediately). However, you might also notice that the astronaut depicted is wearing an American pressure suit. He’s heating up a wiener from his MRE, and he’s ready to mix himself a glass of Tang. He is not from Russia.
In the Great Depression, hobos were often simply regular folks riding the freight trains to get to where the jobs were. For a long time I’ve been conscious of the idea that American astronauts have been hitching rides from the Russians in vehicles designed a couple of decades before the first Space Shuttle ever launched. Somewhere in my head this idea collided with an image from an old advertisement. It was an illustration of a down-and-out sort of fellow camped out on the road somewhere happily warming his hands over a container of what I remember as Colman’s Spicy Brown Mustard (I can’t seem to find the image on the internet). I think my mind mashed that image up with the photos of astronaut survival training from the 1960s, where they are all unshaven and laughing around a campfire.
As I write this, astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko have just arrived at the International Space Station to spend the next year together in orbit. That’s a fantastic mission, and considering the politics of our nations currently, it gives one a little hope. If NASA had the kind of support it did when we got to the moon, I know I’d have a bit more hope.
Maybe someday soon the Russians will be able to hitch a ride in our spacecraft.