Russian Keys

Want to be an Astronaut? Learn How to Speak Russian

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Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques prepares to simulate a spacewalk in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory.

A fire breaks out on the International Space Station while the orbiting complex is over Russian mission control. How, as an English-speaking astronaut, would you keep up with instructions? The answer is years of Russian training. In between time in simulators, jet airplanes and underwater, neophyte astronauts spend hours learning to read Cyrillic characters and pronounce consonant-heavy words. In fact, one of NASA’s requirements for its astronauts now is to learn the Russian language.

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