Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov was born on April 27, 1942, in Tula, USSR. His original name was Valeri Ivanovich Korshunov, but he changed it after being adopted by his step-father in 1957. He graduated from Tula Secondary School No. 4 in 1959 then entered the I M Sechenov First Moscow Medical Institute, earning a doctorate degree. He later specialized in astronautics medicine at the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems (IMBP), Ministry of Public Health, Moscow. In 1964, after the first physician entered space (Dr. Boris Yegorov on board Voskhod 1), Polyakov decided to specialize in space medicine.
On March 22, 1972, Dr. Valeri Polyakov was selected to join the Russian cosmonaut team and to train as a physician who could render any kind of assistance in orbit, including surgical assistance. He underwent spaceflight training as well as taking part in medical support work for the crews of Soyuz spacecraft and the Salyut space station.
His first spaceflight was as a research-cosmonaut onboard Soyuz TM-6, launched on August 29, 1988. The Soyuz linked up with the Mir space station where Polyakov spent 240 days in space, studying the effects of microgravity on humans, before returning to Earth on April 29, 1989. Later that year Polyakov became head of the IBMP project to refine the strategy of the executive medical support of Mir missions, serving as the Medical Deputy of the Flight Director.
On January 8, 1994, as a doctor-cosmonaut on the Soyuz TM -18 flight, he returned to Mir. Polyakov spent the next 437.7 consecutive 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 on the Mir, Polyakov conducted medical, physiological and sanitary-hygienic researches, some of which were components of international space medicine projects.
Dr. Polyakov left the Russian space service on June 1, 1995, after accumulating a then-record 678.69 days in space. As of 2007, he held the third-longest total time in space, bested only by cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev (who has 804 total days in space) and Sergei Avdeyev (747 cumulative days). Valeri Polyakov is currently the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Public Health in Moscow, overseeing programs of medical care during long-term space flights.
Dr. Polyakov is also active in fostering international cooperation and contributes to the medical safety of international space programs. He was a cosmonaut-investigator on the Austrian, German, French, and the U.S. space science missions to Mir.
Valeri Polyakov is a member of the International Space Researchers’ Association, the International Academy of Astronauts, and the Russian Chief Medical Commission on cosmonauts’ certification. He holds the title of “Pilot-Cosmonaut of the USSR,” and has earned the Gold Medals of the Hero of the USSR and the Russian Federation, Order of Lenin, Order of the Legion of Honor (France), and the Highest Kazakhstan Award, Parasat. He has more than 50 publications dealing with the space life sciences, medical support to space missions, and the results of research and experiments conducted during long-term space flights.