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Yuri Gidzenko (President Welles)

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Yuri Pavlovich Gidzenko (born March 26, 1962) is a former Soviet cosmonaut, and current academic teacher. Gidzenko, a well-known cosmonaut, and later commander, landed on the Moon twice, in 1991 and 1993. He led a third Lunar mission, the Soyuz TM-20, with a crew of four, departing from Baykonur Cosmodrome on April 21, 1994.

The Soyuz TM-20 reached the Moon on April 25, however, they were departed, as told by Gidzenko, by a hostile American spacecraft, and attempted an emergency landing. The spacecraft crashed near the Sea of Tranquility, and all three of Gidzenko's crew (Sergei Avdeyev, Vladimir Dezhurov and Yelena Kondakova) were killed. Gidzenko himself survived, however he was nearly completely paralized by the accident. An emergency recon mission brought him, and the remains of the expedition back to Earth four days later.

Gidzenko was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union Medal (all three of the other expedition members were also posthumously awarded). It took nearly two years since he entirely recovered. Unable to move, he was forced to a wheelchair. During the late-1990s, Gidzenko often shared letters with American actor Christopher Reeve, who also suffered from a similar condition. Also, from the late-1990s Gidzenko began to teach at the USSR Space Academy, which he continues up to this date.

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