Japanese spacecraft Soyuz getting ready for launch

Japanese spacecraft Soyuz getting ready for launch
The Soyuz spacecraft that Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui will board on Thursday stands on the launch pad Monday at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
PHOTO: The Japan News/ANN

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan - Just a day away from Thursday's launch of the Soyuz spacecraft, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui is getting ready by following Russian "traditions" for a safe flight into space.

As per tradition with Russia's manned space missions, astronauts do several actions before departure. Yui, 45, said he wanted to be a part of that.

One of the actions is to plant trees in the backyard of the hotel where they are staying. Yuri Gagarin, a Russian Soviet pilot who in 1961 became the first human to go into space, planted the first tree.

Since then, it has become a tradition among astronauts, and the trees planted by them are called the row of astronauts' trees. Yui planted one on July 15.

The night before the launch, Yui and his colleagues will watch "White Sun of the Desert," a popular film in the days of the former Soviet Union.

The ritual began when the astronauts aboard Soyuz 12 watched this adventure movie before the launch in 1973 and came back safely to Earth. Three astronauts had died from suffocation on the Soyuz 11 flight in 1971.

The movie's story has nothing to do with astronauts, but watching the movie acts as a way to wish for a safe trip.

On the day of the launch, the astronauts sign the hotel's door and have holy water sprinkled on them by a member of the Russian Orthodox clergy.

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