Russian cosmonauts smuggled booze onto Mir space station back in the 90s

Cosmonauts gather to have some cognac on the Mir space station in 1997, hours after a flash fire nearly killed them. Alexander Lazutkin is at far right. The picture was taken by NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger, who passed up the opportunity to imbibe.

Cosmonauts gather to have some cognac on the Mir space station in 1997, hours after a flash fire nearly killed them. (Nasa)

For obvious reasons, drinking alcohol while aboard a space station orbiting hundreds of miles above the Earth is strictly prohibited.

However, that didn’t stop Russian cosmonauts smuggling contraband aboard the Mir space station – the precursor to the ISS – back in the 1990s.

According to the former astronauts, they used hollowed-out books or bottles hidden inside their space suits to get the hooch into orbit.

In some cases, the Russians would go on crash diets so they could hide bottles labelled ‘juice’ inside their space suits without exceeding the weight requirements.

Back in the 90s, a photo was taken of the Russian crewmembers enjoying a ‘cognac party’ aboard the space station. This was, to put it mildly, quite dangerous. The main ingredient, ethanol, is extremely volatile and would seriously damage the station’s equipment. It was a simpler time.

Russian space station Mir. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

The Russian space station Mir was a precursor to the International Space Station. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Nasa/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

Cosmonaut Igor Volk said he and other crew members lost weight right before boarding the Salyut 7, a precursor to Mir, so they could hide alcohol in secret pouches in their spacesuits without being detected

Doctors had actually recommended the cognac, Lazutkin claimed, ‘to stimulate our immune system and on the whole to keep our organisms in tone.’

But eventually Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, prohibited alcohol and the crews had to get creative.

386636 13: FILE PHOTO: The STS-91 crew and the Mir-25 cosmonauts, currently manning Russia's space station, pose for the final joint inflight NASA-Mir portrait in the core module, June 1998. Left to right are Valery V. Ryumin, Wendy B. Lawrence, Charles J. Precourt, Andrew S.W. Thomas, Talgat Musabayev, Janet L. Kavandi, Dominic C. Gorie, Nikolai Budarin and Franklin R. Chang-Diaz. On March 12, 2001, it has been reported that the aging Mir space station is due to descend into earth's atmosphere March 20, where it will eventually ditch into the Pacific Ocean. (Photo courtesy of NASA/Newsmakers)

The STS-91 crew and the Mir-25 cosmonauts pose for a photo aboard the space station in June 1998. (Photo courtesy of Nasa/Newsmakers)

‘A week before the launch we didn’t eat anything except bread and tea, and we lost almost [4.4 pounds],’ Volk told Beyond Russia.

‘We packed everything in little cellophane bags and when we were being dressed, we placed the bags in the spacesuits.’

We wonder if today’s astronauts would ever think of doing something like that.


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