The first and only astronaut of independent Ukraine passes away at 67: a reflection on the career of Leonid Kadeniuk

Science and Innovation, Ukraine

On January 31, at 67 years old, Leonid Kadeniuk, Ukraine’s first astronaut, passed away. He was accepted into NASA’s STS-87 International Mission on the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Fulfilling a childhood dream, Leonid Kadeniuk got his name into the history books of Ukrainian Astronautics. Ever since he was a boy in the village of Klyshkovtsy in the Chernihiv Region, Leonid wanted to fly. After finishing his studies at the Chernihiv Higher Military Aviation Academy, Kadeniuk became a test pilot and learned to fly in over 50 types of aircraft. Step by step, he was approaching the conquest of the cosmos. Nadia Adamchuk-Chala, who worked with Leonid in 1996 in the Space Shuttle Program in the US, spoke of his working career:

“He spent 20 years working to reach his goal. He prepared to be the captain of the “Buran” spaceship. He underwent a course of bioastronautics in Star City in Russia. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he, already prepared, was the best candidate for the flight in the framework of the American program.”

On November 19, 1997, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the space shuttle Columbia was launched into flight. Among the six crew members was Ukrainian astronaut Leonid Kadeniuk. He became the first and only Ukrainian since independence who has traveled into outer space. It was Leonid who played the Ukrainian Anthem in near-Earth orbit for the first time. He also got in touch with Ukrainian schoolchildren and answered questions on his research and experiments, and in doing so, offered a source of inspiration for many.

The joint American-Ukrainian mission STS-87, in which Leonid Kadeniuk participated, is known for its scientific experiments. The Ukrainian astronaut on board examined plants under conditions of weightlessness. Kadeniuk said that the main mission of a Ukrainian in space is to grow crops.

“Leonid was a payload specialist, he had to carry out eleven experiments in space flight conditions. He fulfilled all the tasks and brought valuable material back to Earth. Scientists studied it for many years and wrote a number of papers on it. He made a great contribution to the development of bioastronautics,” said Nadia Adamchuk-Chala.

After Leonid’s flight into space, he was awarded the title Hero of Ukraine. He then served in the Ukrainian Air Force and was elected to the Ukrainian Parliament. Kadeniuk even became an author and wrote the book “Mission — Space”, which describes the sensations of weightlessness and how life is perceived on Earth after space flight. Leonid Kadeniuk believed in Ukraine as a future leader in Space Travel.

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