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Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko's Mission Status: Rest and Relaxation on Crete

The Palace at Knossos
The Palace at Knossos

According to organizers of a new program to rehabilitate cosmonauts exposed to lengthy space missions, famed Russian space veteran Yuri Malenchenko is on R&R at the new Anemos Luxury Grand Resort on Crete. The 5 star resort just welcomed Malenchenko and his family days after the cosmonaut returned to Earth from a 6 months mission aboard the space station. 

One of Russia’s most famous cosmonauts, Malenchenko gained fame for being the first person to get married in space. According to the news from Greece, he is also part of a new program to help space travelers deal with the rigors of weightlessness and stress they undergo during missions. Joined by his wife Catherine, and their daughter Camilla, this is actually the second time Malenchenko has visited Chania province for recouping. The Anemos resort, in collaboration with Eyewide marketing on Crete, the Agora agency, along with the Russian Space Agency, collaborated to create the new program focused on Cretan hospitality.

Anemos Luxury Grand Resort

We spoke over Skype with Eyewide founder and director, Minas Liapakis, about his company's role in innovating the Russia-Greece synergy. According to Liapakis, a close friendship with Thanassis Avgerinos of the Greek owned Russian company "Agora" led to the initiative. Avgerinos, whose company and magazine in Russia works with Roscosmos, engaged "Eyewide" in order to be the Crete facilitator of this new program. Liapakis, discussed the essence of why Crete was chosen above other destinations.

"The Russian cosmonauts require more than a simple spa rehabilitation session after 6 months in space. Resorts with physical therapy aspects dot the globe. In the past these astronauts have rested and recouped in Bali, on the Riviera, and so on. What we surmised, and what doctors confirmed, was that the mental readjustment being even more critical for these space sojourners. The Cretan lifestyle, it turns out, is the perfect neutral atmosphere for those having been subjected to these rigors."

Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko via NASA

The hospitality executive went on to delve into the wide disconnect space travel impacts onto individuals. Liapakis told us his discussions with doctors confirmed what his eyes beheld already this week. The Greek organizers took note of how Malenchenko seemed eerie detachment on arriving on Crete. Then within hours of interacting with the welcome Crete offers, according to Liapakis the cosmonaut opened up, apparently becoming himself again. This is attributable to that special character Crete has, of treating everyone as if they belong. Out co-founder and editor, Phil Butler has spoken of this unusual atmosphere many times. The thing called "Philoxenia" being real enough to "cut with a knife", or so he says. Returning to the Russian cosmonaut program, it makes sense that those detached for months in space, might possess a sort of erie or obtuse detachment. Given the way most touristic resorts operate, it's not hard to imagine recuperation being retarded by typical environments. At least this is our best stab at describing the science behind. 

Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov took part in a similar program of physical rehabilitation after the six-month stay on the International Space Station last year. This latest version of the "mission" is accentuated by enhancing the family element, along with new elements that take advantage of Crete’s natural environment, “Crete massage”, and the world renowned Cretan diet. The Russian Space Agency has sent along a team of doctors to maximize Malenchenko's recuperation, while at the same time studying more advanced ways to make use of so-called "Philoxenia", a term indigenous in Greece and on Crete, for the culture's love of travelers. The resort's spa complex is a key part to the program, but more importantly Cretan lifestyle and culture would appear to be the central value. Our Editor's report on Sputnik International gives more details: 

"Doctors in charge say the long term course of recovery efforts is perfectly suited to the climate and culture of Crete, where family oriented hospitality is world famous.According to organizers, a new program of excursions and visits to local attractions and important points of the history and culture of Crete will balance out Malenchenko’s experience."

Olive Tree Vouves outside Chania in the west of Crete

This cosmonaut's outer space rehab on Crete has already made quite a splash in Greek media. According to the organizers, Malenchenko is being introduced to a great many people in Chania province, as well as in Rethymnon and Hersonissos to the east of Heraklion. Malenchenko and his family are visiting what most experts say is the world's oldest olive tree outside Chania today. The Vouves tree is estimated to be over 3,000 years old, a living artifact from the time just after the Minoan civilization's demise. This land of Bronze Age magnificence, long revered for its climate and even healing powers, is a fascinating connective to this age of high technology and cosmonauts. Somehow the twain in between may reveal the epic linkages in between humankind and that realm we perceive we come from. Without sounding too "spaced out" here, the land some say arose from the mythic Atlanteans may well prove our genuine connection to the stars. Well, even if only for bringing us back down to Earth, after a long spaceflight. 

We'll get more on this story for you as news arrives.