Astro Girls: Jelena Kondakova

Jelena Vladimirovna Kondakova was the third Soviet/Russian female cosmonaut to travel to space and the first woman to make a long-duration spaceflight. Her first trip into space was on Soyuz TM-20 in 1994. She returned to Earth on March 22, 1995 after a five-month stay at the Mir space station.

She spent about 169 days in space, the first time an American space shuttle met with with the Russian space station Mir. She and her crewmates had to deal with mechanical problems and power failures while on Mir.

On her second spaceflight Jelena was a mission specialist on the American space shuttle Atlantis, which launched on May 15, 1997. The crew of Atlantis transferred equipment and supplies to Mir. The mission lasted nine days.


The Russian (formerly Soviet) crewed spacecraft which has been used since 1967. Soyuz is the Russian word for “union.” It is the longest-serving spacecraft design for crews in use. Soyuz spacecraft have served mainly as a crew ferry to and from Earth-orbiting space stations, specifically the Salyut stations, Mir, and the International Space Station (ISS).

The first crewed launch of a Soyuz took place on April 23, 1967. Its single test pilot, Vladimir Komarov, was killed when the descent module’s parachute failed to unfurl after reentry and the module crashed. This was the first human death during a spaceflight.

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