International Space Hall of Fame Inductee Held the World Record for Longest Manned Spaceflight

Valeri Polyakov watches from Mir as the Space Shuttle Discovery practices an approach maneuver in February 1995. The photo was taken by Vladimir Titov aboard the Space Shuttle.  Credit: NASA

International Space Hall of Fame Inductee Valeri Polyakov, the Russian cosmonaut who held the world record for the longest manned spaceflight, has passed away at the age of 80. The announcement was made by Roscosmos, Russia’s state space agency, on Monday September 19, 2022. The agency did not indicate a time or cause of death.

Born Valeri Ivanovich Korshunov in 1942, he became Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov in 1957 after his stepfather adopted him. He earned his doctorate at the I M Sechenov First Moscow Medical Institute, and chose to specialize in space medicine, inspired by the first physician to enter space, Dr. Boris Yegorov onboard Voskhod 1. In 1972, he was selected to join the Russian cosmonaut team and to train as a physician who could render any sort of assistance in orbit. Sixteen years later on August 29, 1988, he took his first spaceflight as a research-cosmonaut onboard Soyuz TM-6 and spent 240 days aboard the Mir space station studying the effects of microgravity on humans. After returning to Earth, Polyakov became head of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems (IBMP) project to refine the strategy of the executive medical support of Mir missions, serving as the Medical Deputy of the Flight Director.

Polyakov returned to Mir in 1994 on the Soyuz TM-18 flight as a doctor-cosmonaut and spent the next 437.7 days in space, a world record that still stands. He orbited the earth 7,075 times and traveled 186,887,000 miles before landing safely on March 22, 1995. During his stay, he conducted numerous medical, physiological, and sanitary-hygienic researches.

After leaving the Russian space service in June 1995, Polyakov became the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Public Health in Moscow, overseeing programs of medical care during long-term space flights. He was also active in fostering international cooperation and contributed to the medical safety of international space programs.

Polyakov was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1996. He held the title of “Pilot-Cosmonaut of the USSR,” and earned the Gold Medals of the Hero of the USSR and the Russian Federation, among many other honors.

The International Space Hall of Fame is an integral part of the New Mexico Museum of Space History, and is located in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

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