March 22nd marks the 35th anniversary of the day when a Mongolian was blasted into space. On this day, Hero of Mongolia, Major General J.Gurragchaa became the 101st person in space and Mongolia became the 10th country which had sent one of its citizens into earth orbit. He was also the second Asian in space.
J.Gurragchaa was born on 5th December 1947, in the Gurvanbulag soum of Bulgan Province.
Cosmonaut Gurragchaa’s Soyuz-39 spacecraft completed 124 orbits over a period of one week 20 hours 42 minutes.
Mongolia and the USSR spent five years in selecting and preparing Gurragchaa. In 1977, he was selected from 10,000 people during a process involving rigorous medical tests In second phase, 13 people were examined went through a further 17 tests resulting in four people, including J.Gurragchaa being shortlisted. The others were M.Ganzorig, D.Surenkhorloo and S.Saintsog.
J.Gurragchaa took soil samples from Altanbulag, the River Khalkh and Erdenet with his into space. Local factories produced 60 kinds of new products “branding” the first Mongolian in space, including, candy, matches, drinks, hat, shirt and also “Bolor” vodka.
J.Gurragchaa took 30 special items with him into orbit. These included the Mongolian flag, the constitution, and “symbols” of state, namely the Suld and Soyombo, a traditional jade snuff bottle from his father, 10 tugriks from his mother and, finally, a photograph of Marshal Tsedenbal.
On 22th March 1981, a total of 206 babies were born in Mongolia, many of whom were given names such as cosmos (sansar) and star (od); 15 of them were named Gurragchaa. Several children were also named Janebekov – the cosmonaut’s patronymic.
The legacy of J.Gurragchaa’s space flight continues today: even today Russian’s take Mongolian dried meat and Mongolian sea buckthorn into orbit with them. During the Intercosmos program, these foods were tested during J.Gurragchaa’s week in space. Therefore, traditional Mongolian dried meat and sea buckthorn have remained on the safety food list
The Soyuz landing module, which brought J.Gurragchaa safely back to earth, can be seen at the Astronomy & Space Flight Museum in Ulaanbaatar. In addition to a display of space suits, equipment and model space craft – there is also a state-of-the art planetarium and a lecture theatre making this one of the finest establishments of its kind in Asia.