Valery Ryumin, a Soviet tank commander turned cosmonaut and spent more than a year in space, setting endurance records — then taking another flight after 18 years, this time on a US space shuttle — died on Monday. He was 82.
Russian federal space company Roscosmos has announced his death. Dmitry Rogozin, the director of the company, called Mr. Ryumin’s death “an irreparable loss”, but did not say where he died or give a cause.
mr. Ryumin’s first mission, on Soyuz 25, would last 90 days. But it ended after just two hours when the vehicle was unable to dock with the Salyut 6 space station in space.
On his next two missions, Mr. Ryumin and his crew set space travel records: 175 days with Vladimir Lyakbov on Soyuz 32 in 1979 and 185 days with Leonid Popov on Soyuz 35 in 1980.
Those early flights were considered invaluable for their scientific advances. They were also choirs for propaganda.
Mr. Ryumin and his crew conducted experiments, including testing gamma-ray telescopes and hatching quail eggs. They hosted the first Cuban, Hungarian and Vietnamese cosmonauts on the space station and appeared live on a video screen in a stadium in Moscow during the 1980 Summer Olympics.
By the time Mr. Ryumin retired in 1980, after his third mission, he had logged 362 days in space, a record for any cosmonaut or astronaut at the time.
From 1981 to 1989, Mr. Ryumin was the flight director of the Salyut 7 space station (which went awry in 1985 and was recovered by the Soviets during a rescue that became the basis for the 2017 Russian film “Salyut 7”) and the Mir space station. He later led the Russian part of the shuttle Mir program, the first collaboration between NASA and the Russian space agency.
In 1998, 18 years after his third and presumably final flight, Mr. Ryumin to join the crew of the US space shuttle Discovery STS-91. The shuttle would dock at the Russian space station Mir, which has been orbiting the Earth for 12 years.
“After my three flights in the 1980s, I thought it would be fun to fly for the fourth time,” he said in an interview with NASA two months before the launch.
“I thought it would be very convenient for someone with very good flying and life experience to visit the station,” he added. “I believe I will be able to see more details and more things compared to young cosmonauts or crew members.”
Mr. Ryumin had to lose about 55 pounds to qualify for the mission. Discovery docked with Mir in June 1998; he spent four days on the space station before returning home, totaling 371 days in space across all four missions.
“We learned a lot during these joint operations during the Phase 1 program,” he said. “We have learned to understand each other. We were introduced to the philosophies of each country.”
Valery Victorovich Ryumin was born on August 16, 1939 in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russian Far East. He graduated from the Kaliningrad Mechanical Engineering Technical College in 1958.
He was an army tank commander from 1958 to 1961 and received a degree in electronics and computer technology from the Moscow Forest Engineering Institute in 1965, where he specialized in spacecraft control systems.
After working for the Rocket and Space Corporation, Mr. Ryumin joined the cosmonaut corps in 1973. He was twice named Hero of the Soviet Union.
Survivors include his wife, Yelena Kondakova, a fellow cosmonaut; their daughter, Yevgenia; and two children, Viktoria and Vadim, from a previous marriage to Natalya Ryumina.
While a graduate student, Mr. Ryumin trained at the company that manufactured the first Sputnik satellite. But, he said in the NASA interview, he never dreamed that he would one day orbit the Earth.
“At that time it was like a big fantasy, and I could never imagine having to do this, what I was doing,” he said. “I could never dream of it.
“Now kids can dream and they can say, ‘I’m going to be an astronaut or a cosmonaut’ from an early age,” he added. “People of my generation couldn’t dream about it because at the time they didn’t know what to dream about.”