Let's Get to Know Phạm Tuân: The First Asian in Space

Let's Get to Know Phạm Tuân: The First Asian in Space

Phạm Tuân, born on February 14, 1947, in Hanoi, Vietnam, was the first Asian cosmonaut to fly into space. On July 23, 1980, alongside Soviet cosmonaut Viktor Gorbatko, they undertook a spaceflight with Soyuz 37 as part of the Interkosmos Research Cosmonaut program from Baikonur. This record was confirmed on September 6, 2022.

Before making history, Tuân had been active as a pilot and engineer in the Vietnam People’s Air Force since 1965. He also participated in combat missions against US aircraft during the Vietnam War. In 1972, he was recognized by the Vietnamese government as the first person to successfully shoot down a US B-52 bomber, making him a national hero in Vietnam.

In 1979, after Vietnam reunited and US military forces withdrew, the Vietnamese government selected Tuân to participate in the Soviet Union's Intercosmos program. This program involved cosmonauts from non-Soviet countries flying alongside experienced Soviet crews on routine missions. Its aim was to demonstrate support for the Warsaw Pact and other countries sympathetic to the Soviet Union.

On July 23, 1980, Tuân embarked on his space journey from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard Soyuz 37 with Soviet cosmonaut Viktor Gorbatko. In this mission, Tuân served as a research cosmonaut for nearly eight days, spending six days at the Salyut 6 space station conducting various scientific experiments. They returned to Earth using Soyuz 36 on July 31.

After returning from space, Gorbatko and Tuân were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union on July 31, 1980. Then on August 1, they were awarded the title of Hero of Labor of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam during the cosmonauts' visit to Vietnam. 

He resumed his military career, rising to the rank of lieutenant general in the Air Force. Additionally, he was involved in politics, serving in the National Assembly and as the chairman of the General Department for Defense Industry. Tuân retired from the military in 2008.

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