Why did you want to be a cosmonaut?

Q: Why did you want to be a cosmonaut?

A: When I was in kindergarten, our management there of the kindergarten gave us a present and it was a rocket, of three or four meters, but it resembled the rocket that Yuri Gagarin was launched on into space.  Of course, this was a toy and I was about four or five years old.  When I looked at that rocket, I understood that it was mine and I protected that vehicle, I protected that rocket, and everybody called me “Gagarin,” and that was the moment when I understood that I wanted to become a cosmonaut.  I also understood that it was going to be difficult and it took me many, many years to accomplish my goal.  But looking back and looking at myself today, I see that I’ve almost accomplished it.  I have just a few steps that remain in order to accomplish my goal.

I’d like to ask you to help fill in some of the details of that story.  Start by telling me about your hometown in Russia and what it was like for you to grow up in that environment.

I was born in Russia and at that time it was the Soviet Union.  I was born in Penza, the city of Penza, and it’s in the center of Povolzhye; it is not too far away from the mighty Volga River.  I grew up in a regular Soviet family: my father was in the military and my mother was a teacher of physics and mathematics, and I think she was one of the important people who taught me how to love the sciences.  In my childhood I did a lot of sports, and hockey is one of my favorite sports. I went to the professional hockey academy, but also I never forgot my goal.  I always participated in, avior, different groups and studied flights and different other activities.  Then I started to prepare to enter a university, a flight school.  I finished the high school in my hometown and then I entered Chernigov flight school that I completed, and after having done that I continued my development. 
I became a lieutenant and then a pilot.  I became a pilot, a member of the Russian aviation forces, and that was one of the most important events of my life.  Unfortunately it coincided with a not very pleasant development of our country: as you know, the Soviet Union collapsed at that time, but the flight school was then located in the Ukraine and now it is a separate country.  But I also was able to extract some positive events from that as well.  
I found my wife there and I became a family member, I am now a husband, and my wife is from Chernigov, and we decided to move to the far east of Russia where I was in the military.  Right after that I entered the flight school of Moscow   and after having completed my studies there I was offered the opportunity to become a cosmonaut.  I was, of course, very excited but a little worried.  We had to conduct a lot of trainings, our personality trainings, physical trainings, I spent a lot of forces and energy, but I did it successfully and from 2003 I began training in the Star City, at first I became a candidate and then in the year 2005 I was named a Roscosmos cosmonaut, and that’s where I am until today.  And this is a little bit of my personal history.

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