Greece has honored the first cosmonaut of Greek origin, Fyodor Yurchikhin Grammatikopoulos, who sent a message to the country’s children to “not be afraid to have big dreams”.
Sunday’s ceremony took place at the northern city’s Royal Theater with several notables attending, including former Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) reported.
The 59-year-old cosmonaut said: “I am three times happy because I have three homelands. The big one being Russia; Georgia, where I was born; and Greece, where I always come with a lot of love.
“My heart is here, because my mom and dad live here in Sindos,” Grammatikopoulos said, adding that the first phone call he made from space was to his mother.
He said that the name “ARGO” he gave to the last spacecraft in which he traveled to space symbolized the reunion of his three homelands and his love for Greece, its ancient history and Greek mythology.
In his speech, the Russian-Greek cosmonaut advised the children of Greece to follow their dreams: “Children, don’t be afraid to have big dreams. You must have big dreams and remember that your life is in your own hands.”
The event included Pontic dances and singing by soprano Sonia Theodoridou.
Who is Fyodor Yurchikhin Grammatikopoulos?
Born Jan. 3, 1959, in Batumi, Georgia, Yurchikhin Grammatikopoulos entered the Sergey Ordzhonikidze Moscow Aviation Institute in 1976. He graduated in 1983 with a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering, specializing in airspace vehicles. In 2001, he received a master’s degree from the Moscow State University.
After graduating from the Sergey Ordzhonikidze Moscow Aviation Institute he worked at the Russian Space Corporation Energia from September, 1983, until August, 1997. He held the following positions: engineer, senior engineer, lead engineer and instructor-test-cosmonaut. He supported the Shuttle-Mir and NASA-Mir programs and started working for the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in February 2012.
SPACEFLIGHT EXPERIENCE: Yurchikhin performed his first spaceflight on the shuttle STS-112 in Oct. 7 – 18, 2002 as a mission specialist. He completed his second spaceflight from April to October 2007 (196 days) as ISS-15 commander and Soyuz TMA flight engineer. He performed three EVAs that lasted 18 hours 44 minutes in total. He completed his third spaceflight from June 16 – Nov. 26, 2010 as Soyuz TMA-19 commander and ISS-24/25 flight engineer. Performed two EVAs that lasted 13 hours and 10 minutes. A veteran of three spaceflights, Yurchikhin has logged 371 days in space with five EVAs that lasted 32 hours.
AWARDS: Hero of the Russian Federation (2008), Order of Friendship, NASA medals, Order of Merit for the Motherland of the 3rd degree, medals of the Russian Cosmonautics Federation; Order of the Phoenix (Greece).
(with information from NASA)