In late April 2013, a dele-gation of 16 people from IAHD Adriatic – International Association for Handicapped Divers visited Moscow in Russia to become the first disabled divers to dive in the Hydro Lab of the Russian cosmonaut testing facility located in Star City.
— We did it!
The delegation to Star City included Slovenians Damjan Pek-lar (CMAS Instructor), Barbara Slaček and Aleš Povse-Yoda, as well as Croatians Zoran Vlah—who gets around in a wheelchair in everyday life—and Peter Maj-cen who is on crutches.
There were also several volunteers and helpers including Alenka Fidler, Blaž Ribič, Gaber Guna, Katarina Richter, Matjaž Paj, Nevenka Richter Peče, Urška Gajšek, Rajko Prelog, Tomaž Bobik and Petar Vresnik.
The delegation was led by the president of IAHD Adriatic, Branko Ravnak, who flew to Moscow specifically for the immersion event in the Hydro Lab (Neutral Buoyancy Training Facility) of the Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City. It was the first time wheelchair users have dived in the facility. It was a dream come true for Ravnak—a dream he nurtured for several years and finally realized thanks to a friendship with the Foundation supporting the Russian federal program “Dostypnaya Sreda” (Accessible Environment).
On the Russian side, disabled divers who participated included Nikita Vankov from Anapa, and Anna Demidova and Svetlana Fomicheva from Moscow. Volunteers included Elena Topyricheva from St. Petersburg and Ilya Dubrovsky, Svetlana Konohova and Andrey Zaikin and Igor Murashkin from Moscow.
Underwater videography was taken by Vladimir Prokhorenko from Anapa, while underwater photography was done by Dmitry Sakharov, with the help of assistant lighting diver, Anton Sakharov, and land photography was done by Zoya Pechorkina—all of whom were from Moscow.
The dive went as usual. A briefing was held by Valery Nesmeyanov, director of the dive centre, SPACE DIVE, and distinguished test pilot of the Space Technology agency of the Russian Federation. Each of the two groups of divers spent at least 60 minutes underwater, during which time each diver could check out the construction of the ISS (International Space Station) and experience for themselves what astronauts do in training (and even in outer space!).
The divers exchanged experiences and posed for pictures in front of the spacecraft. Now in their logbooks two stamps appear: one for the dive center SPACE DIVE and, as a special, memorable experience, a stamp from the Foundation supporting the Russian federal program “Dostypnaya Sreda” (Accessible Environment) as well as the signature of the president of CRASA (Russian underwater federation), Valentin Stashevski, who personally observed the dives.
The famous Hydro Lab
The Hydro Lab was commissioned in 1980. This unique structure, the central part of which is a cylindrical vessel (with a diameter of 23m, a height of 12m, and a capacity of 5,000 squ m) filled with water at about 30°C, has a mounting plate with a capacity of 40 tons. The density of the water is less than that of a normal swimming pool thereby achieving exceptional clarity.
It was here that cosmonaut training and development of operations took place under simulated weightlessness in a water environment, providing solutions for the problems of cosmonaut training in extravehicular activity, performing experimental studies, ergonomic testing of objects of space technology, and simulating maintenance work performed by astronauts in outer space. The same building houses office space, technology systems, equipment and other means of cosmonaut training.
On the side of the cylindrical surface (...)