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Interview with space cosmonaut DUMITRU PRUNARIU



ALL MY REPORT IS BASED ON AMERICAN PUBLIC INFORMATION BECAUSE THE RUSSIANS ARE STILL KEEPING TOP SECRET ON THE SPACE PROGRAM.

A FEW MONTHS AGO I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET DUMITRU PRUNARIU DURING A PHOTOSHOOT. THE ONLY ROMANIAN ASTRONAUT BEING IN SPACE.

HE ANSWER AT SOME OF MY QUESTION ABOUT THE SOVIETIK SPACE PROGRAM.




DUMITRU PRUNARIU

Is a retired Romanian astronaut and pilot. He was the first Romanian to go into space, as part

of the crew of Soyuz 40 mission to the Salyut 6 space station in May 1981. Prior to his spaceflight,

Prunariu was a fighter pilot and an aerospace engineer. After his space mission, he continued to

work in the field of aerospace, serving as the director of the Romanian Space Agency and

later as a professor of aerospace engineering. He has received numerous honors and awards

for his contributions to space exploration and scientific research.


As part of a school project, I asked for permission from Mr Dumitru Prunariu to answer a few questions about photography in space. He instantly accepted my invitation. The interview was conducted using the WhatsApp platform with both text and audio messages.

 

date: 27th march 2023


Were you trained in any space photography program before departure?

   During our preparation, we had special courses in photo and video, and we had Canon cameras in our inventory, as well Hasselblad cameras with 6 cm film for large-format photography.


  What personal camera did you use?

   As a personal camera, in the beginning, I used Russian cameras, mainly Zenit, with reflex mirror and various lenses. Later on, I switched to the Canon A1, which I managed to obtain from abroad, and I used this camera frequently with several lenses, including a 50mm standard lens, a 35-70mm zoom lens, and a 70-300mm zoom lens.


Did you have any other camera on board?

  On board, we were not allowed to bring personal cameras. We used the standard cameras that were approved for the Salyut 6 space station, namely the German S Praktica cameras with fixed lenses of 24mm, 50mm, and 135mm. We did not have any zoom lenses. With the help of Popov and those who unofficially prepared us, we also took an automatic Canon camera with film, which at that time was not yet digital. We were able to take very good instant photographs with that camera. In fact, all the photographs on the internet from the crew that I was part of on the space station were taken with that camera.

 When we used the Praktica on board with the flash that we mounted on it, we had to make all the exposure calculations based on the guide number and the distance at which we were taking the photo, because it didn't have any automatic exposure system. But with the small Canon camera that Popov bought privately in France, everything was automatic, including the flash. So we couldn't go wrong with that camera.


Was the camera in its original form or was it modified?

  No camera was modified because it was not necessary. They were used inside the space station and not outside, to be protected from radiation and to be held in a certain way with the spacesuit. That is why the cameras we had did not have any modifications. Additionally, on board, besides Practika, we also had a Hasselblad camera, which was the only Western camera approved for use on the Russian space station.

  The main problem back then was that we had very few films available for the Hasselblad, and the images were numbered. Before we went up, the commander of the orbital station, Oleg Makarov, took a lot of photographs with the Hasselblad, as he said, to stay in history and have memories of very good quality. But when we developed the films after coming down, we found that they were veiled because they had been on the orbital station for too long, and due to the radiation, they had become fogged. The only photos that remained were those taken with the Practika and, especially, those taken with our automatic Canon camera.


Do you remember which film you used?

  We always used Kodak films, which didn't compromise on quality, unlike the Russians. We used Kodak films with sensitivities of 100, 200, and 400 ISO, and for training, we used western cameras such as Canon and Hasselblad. But we mostly used Praktica cameras.

 Although it was officially prohibited, we also took a few Kodak films with us in addition to those recorded on board, using that Canon camera. So when we returned, we recovered that camera with those films separately from Popov. We gave the films to be developed in the cosmonaut town, and they found that they had been taken with something other than the Practika, because the lens of that camera was 38mm, while the people there were experienced in appreciating lenses of 24mm and 50mm. But since the photos were very good, we came to an understanding with them not to harass us for having privately-owned equipment that was prohibited by their regulations, but to give them the opportunity to publish those photographs because they were apparently the best ones taken on board Soyuz 6. 


Was the film taken away by authorities on return, or were you able to keep your negatives?

 On our return, we were obliged to hand over all the films to the authorities. They developed them and decided what could be published and what couldn't. In fact, everything could have been published because we didn't photograph any cosmic secrets or anything like that. They kept the negatives, and unfortunately, those negatives ended up in the hands of private individuals in a small town. As for what I have, I have the photographs in A4 format, which the Russians made for me from our original film, which I have scanned and which are now published. It's hard to say what "original" means in this case. I also have a set of photographs that were made after the original films.

 The negatives of our films remained in the cosmonauts' town in their photo department archives, but after 1990 when everything was dismantled there, everyone went home with what they could take. Those negatives were taken by one of the photographers and given to another. I found them with a young photographer at the time who worked in the town, his name was Marseille, and he offered to sell them to me at one point, but I didn't agree with the normal price, so I said I would think about it. However, that thought led to the disappearance of Marseille and the negatives, and now even if I want to recover them, I have no way to do so.



Dumitru Prunariu & Alexandru Radu Popescu






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