Friday, December 27, 2013

"Grandfather Frost of All the Russians" and the space station

(BBC News) - Grandfather Frost, the Russian version of Father Christmas, will be linking up with astronauts on board the International Space Station, it is reported.

"Grandfather Frost of All the Russians" is going to visit the mission control centre in Korolev outside Moscow on Sunday, 29 December, to pass on New Year and Orthodox Christmas greetings, RIA-Novosti state news agency reports.

On 7 January, when Orthodox believers mark Christmas, the astronauts on board the space station are also expected to hear from Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
This isn't the first time Grandfather Frost will be "visiting" the mission control centre. He has been making live speeches to astronauts since 2005, and he is also known to have turned up at Korolev with his granddaughter Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, on previous occasions, RIA says.
And also...

(Beyond Apollo) - Today’s Soviet-era space-related New Year card is just plain silly: there’s no overt reference to any flown or unflown space mission or missions that I can discern. It does, however, contain something noteworthy.

A reader explained to me that Russian Santa is not and never has been Santa Claus, which name is, as I expect everyone knows, a corruption of St. Nicholaus, who was, it is believed, a real-life person. St. Nick lived in the 3rd century in what is now Turkey. He is associated with generosity and the protection of children and was persecuted by the Romans for his Christian faith. It’s doubtful, however, that the original St. Nick ever saw a sleigh or reindeer. That was left to his successors in myth and fable.

Russian Santa is properly called Ded Moroz, which means “Old Man Frost.” He was persecuted under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who downplayed him and insisted that he wear blue, not the red of communism. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, he has made a big come-back, and often pops in at holiday parties bearing gifts.

According to my reader, Old Man Frost was almost always accompanied by Snegurochka or Snegurka, The Snow Maiden, whom some say is his granddaughter. I told my reader that my space-themed holiday cards seemed not to include her.

Primed to look for her, however, I found The Snow Maiden in this card, piloting the fanciful rocket over on the left. Both she and Old Man Frost have a lot of hair; I worry about it getting caught in the rocket exhaust. A rocket propulsion engineer would, I imagine, consider that to be some form of “plume impingement.” So far, however, their flight through the cosmos – accompanied by a youthful cosmonaut in a pink space suit with some really nifty headgear – seems to be a successful one.

There exists, incidentally, at least one Snegurochka in space. Snegurochka Planitia is located at the north pole of the planet Venus, in an area first mapped in detail by the Soviet Venera 15 and 16 orbiting spacecraft in the 1980s. NASA’s Magellan orbiter mapped it in greater detail in the early 1990s, and the U.S. Geological Survey published an intricate geologic map of the region in 2012.

Venus might seem like an odd place to put The Snow Maiden, for the planet’s surface is hot enough to melt lead even at night at its poles. Features on Venus are, however, by convention named for females factual and fictional, so Venus is where Snegurochka ended up.

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