» 11/17/2011 RUSSIA The icon of the Mother of God in space together with Russian astronauts by Nina Achmatova The International Space Station gets a new crew, in March an icon of the Mother of God of Kazan arrived, now in plain sight together with the picture of the first man in space.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - As the world celebrated the arrival of a new crew on the International Space Station (ISS), during a live TV broadcast of the astronauts speaking about their experiences two images were clearly visible: the first man in space, the Russian Gagarin , and the icon of Our Lady of Kazan (see photo).
The icon of the Virgin, one of the most venerated by Orthodox Russians, was gifted last March by the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, to the then Director of Space Agency (Roscosmos) Anatoly Perminov. "I hope that the icon is taken on board the ship on the journey that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first man in space," to the religious leader had hoped referring to the mission of the Soyuz TMA-24 that shortly thereafter, on 30 March, would be leaving for the ISS, a mission dedicated to the now legendary Gagarin. According to the Patriarch, the astronauts "as well as their complex and important duties" will also make "in some way a spiritual mission" with the icon.
It is not the first time that an icon of Our Lady has traveled in space: in 2009 the image of Our Lady of the Sign was carried to the ISS on Soyuz TMA16.
The mission of the Soyuz TMA22 which ended yesterday, November 16th, was followed with bated breath as it was the first manned mission since the end of August, when a cargo rocket had crashed in Siberia. Before leaving Baiknour Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) the space ship was blessed by an Orthodox priest. This has been an obvious success for Soyuz, which is now the lone standing form of transport to get to the ISS since NASA pulled its shuttle and the Russian space industry, marked recently by a series of accidents. Currently the crew on the ISS consists of three Russian cosmonauts, two American astronauts and one Japanese astronaut.