Russian cosmonaut brings aloha on spaceflight

By William Cole 


Former Hawaii Gov. George Ariyoshi thanks Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev for his naming his mission “Hawaii” and for carrying the Ariyoshi family photo during his mission.

A Russian cosmonaut who brought some aloha on a six-month mission to the International Space Station was welcomed in Hawaii today by Gov. David Ige and former Gov. George Ariyoshi.

Mission commander Oleg Artemyev chose “Hawaii” as the name for his Soyuz spaceflight and carried with him a copy of a photo of the Ariyoshi family that Hawaii-born astronaut Ellison Onizuka had aboard the ill-fated Challenger mission in 1986.

The Challenger exploded after takeoff, killing all seven astronauts aboard. The intact photo was recovered from the ocean two months later.

“Thirty-three years later, the Russian commander flew the picture (in space) for 200 days, and it’s just amazing people have stepped forward and helped complete Ellison’s mission,” said Onizuka’s brother, Claude, after a ceremony at the state Capitol.

Henk Rogers, co-founder of The Tetris Co., a Hawaii-based entrepreneur and advocate for space exploration and settlement, had traveled to Kazakhstan last March for the launch of Artemyev’s MS-08 spacecraft and arranged for the cosmonaut to bring along the Ariyoshi family photo and some other items.

During a visit to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, Artemyev noted that Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific, has had influences from both counties, including a series of Russian forts built in the 1800s on Kauai and Oahu.

Artemyev broke with the tradition of using Soviet, and later, Russian names for missions and christened his flight “Hawaii” because the state lies between the two great powers.

“We have the common history around this place,” he said through an interpreter. “There are some political tensions between the countries, so we want to kind of loosen it a bit” with the “Hawaii” mission.

Crew members even wore aloha shirts before the takeoff. Ige proclaimed March 4 as “International Space Station 55th Expedition ‘Hawaii’ Mission Day.”

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