Posted: 17.04.2024 09:14:00

Our space. Our hero

Marina Vasilevskaya has been awarded the Hero of Belarus title. She is the first cosmonaut in the history of sovereign Belarus and the second woman to be honoured with the highest state award.

The journey to the stars of sovereign Belarus’ first cosmonaut Marina Vasilevskaya was successfully completed on April 6th. Her flight lasted 14 days, including 12 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Immediately after landing, the President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, congratulated the Soyuz MS-24 crew on their return to Earth and invited the cosmonauts and all those who participated in the space flight preparation to visit Belarus. The milestone event became the result of many years of painstaking work involving a huge number of specialists who also passed the space exam with flying colours.

Marina Vasilevskaya, Belarus' first cosmonaut,
Hero of Belarus 


Marina Vasilevskaya was born on September 14th, 1990 in Minsk. For the last six years, she worked as a flight attendant-instructor for Belavia Airlines. She flew as part of the crews of Boeing and Embraer aircraft. Before joining the airline as a flight attendant, she had been professionally engaged in ballroom dancing for 15 years. In her free time, Marina is fond of interior design, going to the swimming pool, doing aerobics, playing badminton and tennis. Once she returns to the ground from the sky, she goes straight to her garden where she grows vegetables and herbs with pleasure. The lady comes from a family of ordinary workers. Her family is big and friendly, she also has a brother and sister with nephews. 
Interestingly, Marina’s father Vitaly Vasilevsky said in an interview that even as a flight attendant, his daughter ‘dreamed of flying higher than the sky’. 


The decision to arrange a flight to the ISS was made by the Presidents of Belarus and Russia, Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin, during a working meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome on April 12th, 2022. More than 2,000 people took part in the candidate selection process. Having withstood a tough competition, the main requirements of which were professional qualifications, health status and other equally important parameters, Marina Vasilevskaya, a flight attendant of Belavia Airlines, was selected as the main cosmonaut. Anastasia Lenkova, a pediatric surgeon, was chosen as her backup.  
In July 2023, the ladies began training at the Yuri Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Centre, and in February 2024 they successfully passed the exams and were recognised as fit for a space flight. 
It typically takes specialists five to seven years to prepare for the first space flight. Marina Vasilevskaya and her backup Anastasia Lenkova were prepared for the flight in less than 8 months! 

Keeping up the world level

Launch vehicle lift-off, Baikonur Cosmodrome          Yegor Yermalitskiy

On March 23rd, the Soyuz MS-25 spacecraft was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to the ISS. The crew was international — Belarusian Marina Vasilevskaya, Russian cosmonaut, Belarus-born Oleg Novitsky who was a crew commander, as well as astronaut from the USA Tracy Dyson. Fourteen days later, on April 6th, Marina Vasilevskaya, Oleg Novitsky and NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara landed on the territory of Kazakhstan, 150 km southeast of the city of Zhezkazgan.
Marina Vasilevskaya became the first cosmonaut in the history of sovereign Belarus. She managed to master the pre-flight training in the shortest possible time, cope with difficult scientific experiments in orbit and withstand tough launch and return conditions. Her case serves as an example that has assured many young people that flying to the stars is not such an unattainable goal.
Until recently, there were only 47 countries in the world that were able to send their representatives into space. Belarus became the 48th state on this list. This is an ambitious step forward, especially considering the fact that such projects are not only expensive but also require serious preliminary preparation. The country’s capability to carry out space programmes undoubtedly attests to the highest level of its scientific development. 

Laboratory in zero gravity

Cosmonauts have specialisations — a test pilot, a doctor, a researcher, an instructor, etc. Marina Vasilevskaya is a research cosmonaut. During her stay in orbit, she fully carried out the scientific programme developed by Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences jointly with the Roscosmos State Corporation and the Russian Academy of Sciences. The research included seven targeted experiments: five research and two educational tasks in a variety of fields — from biology and physiology (the study of human capabilities under overload conditions) to the use of Belarusian-made photo and video spectral equipment located on the ISS.
In particular, it was required to complete a number of tasks on manned astronautics, conduct research related to lactoferrin protein, and study how probiotic strains of lactic acid microorganisms and bifidobacteria behave in zero gravity. Studies were conducted on the possibility of formation and crystallisation of organic and inorganic materials in the conditions of orbital flight, as well as space photography of test natural objects were made. All these experiments not only have practical meaning but also lay the groundwork for future studies.

A voice from orbit

On March 29th, at 17:50 Minsk time — it was at this moment that the ISS was flying over Belarus — Marina Vasilevskaya had a communication session with students of the Belarusian State University (BSU). There was also a live broadcast on the BSU YouTube channel. The cosmonaut communicated with university and lyceum students during 10 minutes and managed to answer numerous questions about the flight preparation and work in orbit.

Meeting on native land

Meeting at Minsk National Airport          Ilya Shvedko

The support of the people, and especially of the President of Belarus, is invaluable. The Head of State worried about Marina as if she were his own daughter. Her parents repeatedly confirmed that when talking to reporters. Belarusians showed their love not only during the spacecraft launch and landing but also when they warmly greeted the first cosmonaut of sovereign Belarus on the morning of April 11th at Minsk National Airport. 
“I am very glad to set foot on my native land. I really missed my Homeland. I dedicate my space flight to our people, our Belarus,” these were Marina Vasilevskaya’s first words on her native land.
The cosmonaut thanked everyone for their tremendous support and such a heartfelt welcome, “I looked at Belarus from the aircraft porthole and rejoiced. Of course, our country looks much bigger from space, now I know that. But it is so pleasant to watch our beautiful green fields, forests and vast expanses from the airplane porthole.”   


At the solemn ceremony honouring Belarusian cosmonauts at the Palace of Independence, Belarusian cosmonaut Marina Vasilevskaya, who was awarded the Hero of Belarus title by the Head of State, shared her emotions and impressions of the flight into space, “I am proud that I became the first cosmonaut of sovereign Belarus! It is a great honour and a great responsibility for me.”  
The cosmonaut addressed warm words of gratitude to Aleksandr Lukashenko for his great personal contribution to the space project. “Thank you for your continuous support and care. Thank you for allowing this project to be implemented. I am proud that I was born in Belarus! I love my people! Everything I do comes from my heart. Being in space, I saw our Earth. It is amazing! It is powerful, big, beautiful, independent. I would like to wish all people to be kinder, to treat each other and their country with kindness,” the cosmonaut conveyed her wishes to everyone.
The flight of a Belarusian citizen into space is undoubtedly a holiday and celebration for the whole country. It has also marked the result of long-term and fruitful work of many people. It is not just a huge historical event for Belarus. It is the time when the entire country, young and old alike, was unanimous in its unwavering support for its people, feeling excited and worried about the successful completion of this grand endeavour. We, Belarusians, stand firm for our people. This is why even such high achievements as a flight into space are within our reach.  


  • The 336th manned flight in the history of world cosmonautics took place with participation of Marina Vasilevskaya — the 21st visiting expedition (VE-21) to the ISS.
  • 418.7 km is the ISS orbit altitude before the arrival of the Soyuz MS-25 spacecraft with a Belarusian cosmonaut on board.
  • About 12 days is the duration of the VE-21 crew’s work on the ISS Russian segment.
  • 7 main tasks — five research experiments and two educational projects — were included into the programme of the stay for sovereign Belarus’ first cosmonaut on the ISS.
  • 50 hours 22 minutes is the time from the Soyuz MS-25 launch on March 23rd to its docking with the ISS.
  • 3 hours 23 minutes is the time from the Soyuz MS-24 undocking on April 6th to its landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan.
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