Person trained to pilot a spacecraft, operate any of its systems, or conduct research aboard it during spaceflights. The term commonly refers to those participating in U.S. space missions; cosmonaut is the Russian equivalent, and taikonaut is the Chinese equivalent. Astronauts undergo an intense training program that includes classes on spacecraft systems, guidance and navigation, and orbital dynamics, as well as training in land and sea survival, space suits, and weightlessness. With longer stays in space on board the International Space Station, training emphasizes general spaceflight and problem-solving skills, rather than the specific tasks to be accomplished, as in preparation for shorter missions. Seealso Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr.; Neil Armstrong; Guion S. Bluford, Jr.; Yury Gagarin; John H. Glenn, Jr.; Mae Jemison; Sergey Konstantinovich Krikalyov; Shannon Wells Lucid; Valery Vladimirovich Polyakov; Sally Ride; Alan B. Shepard, Jr.; Valentina Tereshkova.
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At the age of 13, Volkov witnessed Yuri Gagarin become the first man in space and this inspired him to become a cosmonaut. He joined the Russian space programme and became a test pilot before realising his dream.
Onboard the Mir space station, he controlled the docking procedures among other things.
The Soviet Union broke up in 1991. At the time Volkov was orbiting Earth on Mir with Sergei K. Krikalev,"the last citizens of the USSR ". Having gone into orbit as Soviet citizens, they returned to Earth as Russian citizens.
Alexander Volkov was awarded the rank of Hero of the Soviet Union and Space Pilot of the USSR, Order of Lenin, Order of October Revolution and the Gold Star medal for the courage and heroism shown during his flights. He worked as Commander of the Cosmonaut Team at the Cosmonauts Training Centre from January 1991 until August 1998. His work was to prepare Russian and foreign cosmonauts for future flights to space stations to Mir and the International Space Station.