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Pavel Popovich

Pavel Romanovich Popovich (October 5, 1930 – September 29, 2009) was a Soviet cosmonaut.

He was the 4th Cosmonaut in space, the 6th person in orbit, and the 8th person in space.


He was born in Uzyn, Kiev Oblast of Soviet Union (now Ukraine) to Roman Porfirievich Popovich (a fireman in a sugar factory) and Theodosia Kasyanovna Semyonov. He had two sisters (one older, one younger) and two brothers (both younger).

During World War II, the Germans occupied Uzyn, and burned documents including Popovich's birth certificate. After the war, these were restored through witness testimony, and although his mother knew that he was born in 1929, two witnesses insisted that Popovich was born in 1930, and so this became his official year of birth.

From 1941 to 1945, he lived in the occupied territory. After its liberation from the Fascist troops, he continued his school studies.

In 1947, he left vocational school in Bila Tserkva with qualifications as a carpenter. In 1951, Popovich graduated as a construction engineer from a technical school in Magnitogorsk, as well as receiving a pilot's degree.

In 1954, he joined the Young Communist League.

He was married to Marina Popovich, a retired Soviet Air Force colonel, engineer, and legendary Soviet test pilot who has been outspoken about UFO reality. They had two daughters. They later divorced, and Popovich married Alevtina Oshegova.

Popovich was also a keen weight lifter:

"Service in the Air Force made us strong, both physically and morally. All of us cosmonauts took up sports and PT seriously when we served in the Air Force. I know that Yuri Gagarin was fond of ice hockey. He liked to play goal keeper. Gherman Titov was a gymnastics enthusiast, Andriyan Nikolayev liked skiing, Pavel Popovich went in for weight lifting. I don't think I am wrong when I say that sports became a fixture in the life of the cosmonauts".

He was also a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic 6th-11th convocations.

After his retirement in 1993, he lived in Moscow.

Popovich died in a hospital in Gurzuf where he had been taken following a stroke on 29 September 2009. Brain hemorrhage was cited as the cause of death. He is buried in Moscow.


In 1952, he graduated from a course at the Stalingrad Military Aviation School near Novosibirsk. He then went on to train at the Military Officers of the Air Force Aviation Training School in Grozny, until 1954 when he joined the Soviet Air Force. From 1954 through 1959, Mr. Popovich served in the Military Air Force as a fighter pilot.


In 1959, he was invited by the specialized medical commission to join the 1st pilot and cosmonaut detachment. In 1960, he was selected as one of the first group of twenty air force pilots that would train as the first cosmonauts for the Soviet space program. The training took place between March 1960 and January 1961, and Popovich passed his final exams in Cosmonaut Basic Training on 17/18 January 1961. He was appointed as an astronaut on 25 January 1961.

He was considered as a strong candidate for the first spaceflight - but while Yuri Gagarin was ultimately chosen for the Vostok 1 flight, Popovich served as the flight's capcom.

From May to August 1961, he trained to fly on spacecraft "Vostok-2" in a group of astronauts, followed (between September and November 1961) with training to fly "Vostok-3". This flight was cancelled. Between November 1961 and May 1962, he trained as a pilot for "Vostok-4". Between June and August of that year, he received further training in the maintenance of this spacecraft.

He commanded the space flight Vostok 4 in 1962 which, along with Andrian Nikolayev on Vostok 3, was the first time that more than one manned spacecraft were in orbit at the same time. His call sign for this flight was Golden eagle.

In January 1964, he became a cosmonaut instructor, becoming deputy commander to the 2nd group of cosmonauts.

Popovich was selected to command one of the Soviet Union's planned moon landings, and trained for this between 1966 and 1968, when the Soviet moon landing plans were scrapped.

In 1968, he was selected as captain for Soyuz 2, but after the death of Vladimir Komarov during the reentry of Soyuz 1, Soyuz 2 was launched without a crew.

In 1969, he was a senior cosmonaut instructor, and became (by 1972) the Chief of cosmonaut training.

In 1974, he commanded his second (and final) space flight Soyuz 14 in 1974. Again, his call sign for this flight was Golden eagle. This flight was the first to the Salyut 3 space station.

After these flights, he was awarded the title "The Hero of the Soviet Union", Major-General of Aviation. Mr. Popovich was also recognized by the presentation of awards such as two "Orders of Lenin", "Order of People Friendship", "Order of the Red Star" and many others.

In 1977, he received a post-graduate degree in technical sciences.

In March 1978, he was on duty in the Flight Control Center for Vladimír Remek's flight aboard Soyuz 28.

From 1978, he was the deputy chief of the Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center responsible for research and testing work. From 1980 to 1989, he was Deputy chief of the Cosmonaut Training Center. In January 1982, he was removed from the list of active cosmonauts, so that he could serve as Deputy Chief for Scientific Testing and Research at the Center.

Socio-Political Life

Details are from Space Encyclopedia ASTROnote, unless otherwise noted

• From 1992: Chairman of the Boxing Federation of Russia.
• From 1994: President of the Yuri Gagarin Foundation; President of the Social Support for Veterans of the Armed Forces of the Union
• From 1996: Member of the Editorial Board of Space News
• From 1998: Member of the Editorial Board of the All-Russia scientific and technical magazine Flight
• From 1999: President of the Ukrainian Union of Cosmonauts
• Member of the Writers' Union of Russia.
• President of the Association of Space Museums of Russia (AMKOS)
• Honorary President of the International Association of Veterans of Physical Education and Sport (MAFIS)
• Honorary Chairman of the Society of Ukrainian Culture (Slavutich)


In 1984, Popovich joined the Russian Academy of Sciences' newly created All-Union Investigation Committee for Anomalous Aerial Phenomena and became head of the Academy's UFO Commission.

In the 2002 SciFi Channel documentary Out of the Blue, Popovich relays a sighting of a UFO next to the airplane he was travelling aboard as he was returning home from Washington D.C. with a delegation of scientists. The UFO was seen by everyone on board the plane. It was perfect triangle shaped and emitted a very bright, white light at a distance of about 1.5 kilometres and an altitude about 1,000 metres above the airplane. The object had an estimated speed of 1500 km/h, travelling parallel to the airplane, passed and overtook the plane in about 30 to 40 seconds.

Popovich was the president of the UFO association of Russia.


Details are from Space Encyclopedia ASTROnote, unless otherwise noted


I Flew in the Morning (1974)
Space Humanity (1981)
Tested in Space and on Earth (1982)
Endless Road Universe (1985)
Robinson of the Universe (1986)

Works in Collections

"Space - My Job"
"High Orbit"
"Conquest of Infinity"
"... 3, 2, 1!"


"Secrets of the Galaxy"
"Mysteries of the Eternal Cosmos"
"Forward - to the Sources of the Past"



MUFON 1992 International UFO Symposium Proceedings
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