Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez. 1st Latin American and the 1st person of African ancestry in space
Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez is the 1st Cuban citizen and the 1st person from a country in the Western Hemisphere other than the United States to travel into earth orbit. As a member of the crew of Soyuz 38, he became the 1st Latin American and the 1st person of African ancestry in space; he was proclaimed at the time as the 1st black cosmonaut. Born in Guantánamo, Tamayo graduated from the Cuban Air Force Academy and became a pilot in the Cuban Air Force. Tamayo was selected as part of the Soviet Union's 7th Intercosmos program on March 1, 1978. Tamayo, along with Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko, was launched into space aboard Soyuz 38 from Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 18, 1980, at 19:11. After docking with Salyut 6, Tamayo and Romanenko conducted experiments in an attempt to find what caused space adaptation syndrome (SAS), and perhaps even find a cure, and on the crystallization of sucrose in microgravity, for the benefit of Cuba's sugar industry. The SAS experiment involved wearing special adjustable shoes for six hours every day that placed a load on the arch of the foot. After 124 orbits of the Earth (lasting 7 days, 20 hours and 43 minutes), Tamayo and Romanenko landed 180 km (110 mi) from Dzhezkazgan. The landing was risky, as it was during the night. He has been honored by the Cuban Government for being the first Cuban, the first Caribbean, and the first Latin American to go into orbit. He was awarded the titles of "Hero of the Republic of Cuba" and the "Order of the Bay of Pigs." He also is a foreign recipient of the "Hero of the Soviet Union" award.