The First Romanian Cosmonaut: Dumitru Prunariu on Soyuz 40
by Grecu Dan
Over 20 years ago, on May 14th, 1981, the first cosmonaut from Romania went to space on board Soyuz 40. One day later, the Soyuz spacecraft docked with space station Salyout 8. For five days, Prunariu, his soviet commander Leonid Popov and the permanent crew onboard the space station, Vladimir Kovalyonok and Victor Savinykh worked on scientific experiments.
On May 22nd Prunariu and Popov returned to earth. Starting with the very flight, Prunariu’s home country Romania has been honouring him and his flight with numerous postmarks. In this article, Romanian collector Grecu Dan gives an overall account of all postmarks used to commemorate space mission Soyuz 40. German member Jurgen Peter Esders translated the text from French.
Dumitru Dorm Prunariu was born on September 27th, 1952 in the city of Brasov in south of Transylvania region. He graduated 1977 from the Air Force Officers Training School and served as 1st Class Pilot for the Air Force before being selected to join the group of Romanian cosmonaut candidates.
Together with his backup, Pilot-Engineer Dumitru Dediu, he takes part in training and preparation at Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre at Star City near Moscow from March 1978 to May 1981. On May 13, 1981, his nomination as prime candidate for the joint Soviet-Romanian spaceflight is formally confirmed. His crew commander is soviet cosmonaut Leonid Popov. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko and Dediu are named backup crew.
Brief chronology of Soyuz 40 space mission:
May 14th 1981, 09.17p.m local Baikonur time: Launch of Soyuz 40 from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
May 15th 1981, 10.50p.m local time Baikonur: Docking with space station complex Salyout-6/Soyuz T4, where the permanent crew Kovalyonok/Savinykh is working since March 12th 1981.
May 16th 1981, about 02.00a.m local time Baikonur, Popov and Prunariu enter the space station and have their first TV transmission shortly after. The same day, scientific work begins. Amongst the experiments, Romanian experiments Guler, Nanobalance, Pneumatik, Astro.
May 17th 1981, Experiments Capilar, Balisto, Information, Miocard start.
May 18th 1981, Experiments go on. New experiments Biodose, Rheo, Anquete, Immunite activated. Late that day, the event of the day: a press conference from space. Prunariu shows some philatelic Items to the world public: both values of the Romanian stamp on his flight, two of the three soviet stamps commemorating the mission, covers, stationary, and a cover commemorating Romanian aerospace pioneers Vuia, vlaicu and Coanda.
May 19th/20th 1981, Further scientific experiments (Neptun, Homeostasie)
May 21st 1981, End of the scientific program.
May 22nd 1981, De-docking at 02.00p.m Baikonur local time. Landing with spacecraft Soyuz 40 at 05.58 local time 225-km southeast of Dzheskasgan, Dscheskasgan. The whole flight was controlled by the soviet mission control center at Kaliningrad near Moscow.
Special postmarks commemorating Prunariu and his spaceflight
The spaceflight – Launch May, 14th 1981
1. First Day of Issue for the two Romanian stamps at Bucuresti. Illustration: joint mission logo.
2. Special postmarker; Bucuresti 14.5.81 “Dumitru Prunariu On His Way to Space”. showing: Soyuz 40 on flight. Commemorative Cover Illustration.
3. Slogan cancel: Oradea 14.5.81-22 h, used again on May 15th, May 16th, and May 18th to 26th, 1981. “First Romanian Astronaut in Space” showing: complex Soyuz-Salyout-Soyuz 40, logo exists in black, red, and purple.