President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, dear friends,
We meet today on the eve of International Cosmonautics Day, a date directly linked to our country, and for which our people have especially warm feelings. On April 12, 1961, humanity entered a new era – the era of manned spaceflight. The first man ever in space was our compatriot, Yury Gagarin, and we just recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of his birth.
To date, 102 of our compatriots have been in space. The first man to walk in space, Alexei Leonov, is here today. Also here today are Sergei Krikalyov, who made six flights and has spent more time in space than anyone else – a total of 2.5 years, and Sergei Volkov, who followed his father’s footsteps and became a cosmonaut. This is the first such case of a cosmonaut dynasty, and it also happened here in our country. And of course, we also have the first woman cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, who I also welcome today.
Once again, I offer you my warmest congratulations on the upcoming holiday. It is my sincere hope that our cosmonautics sector will remain the world leader, and contribute to resolving our social and economic problems and guaranteeing our country’s defence capability.
It is now my pleasure and honour to award the Hero of Russia Gold Star to test-pilots and cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko. They have six months of work in space behind them. Obviously, only the best prepared and most capable professionals can work in such difficult conditions. What’s more, even though for these two Russian cosmonauts it was the first expedition to the International Space Station, they performed their duties with honour. I congratulate them from all my heart on these high decorations.
Sergei Volkov said just now that it is good that development is continuing despite the crisis. That set me thinking that, back when space flights began, things were also not easy. This was all quite a long time ago of course, but some of the heroes here today, our cosmonauts, remember those days very well. If we want to develop new advanced technology and make progress in all the different fields in the space sector, of course it is helpful when the country is going through a stable development period. But we achieved many of our feats and results in space despite the economic situation, and you know and understand this better than I.
There is therefore no reason to dramatise the situation, despite the reality of the global financial crisis. Whatever the situation, we will keep investing in the space sector, in Russian science, industries, and in defence technologies, because life continues moving forward, and if we stop developing even for a short time, we will find ourselves thrown decades behind. We went through a very difficult time in the 1990s, but we nevertheless managed to keep the sector alive and working. Times have changed since then, and we will therefore most certainly achieve our goals and work towards the objectives our heroes spoke of just now.
Once more, I congratulate you with all my heart on the upcoming holiday, and I ask you to pass on my greetings and best wishes to your families and friends.