Norwegian Continues Training for Soyuz Flight to ISS & Spacewalk Amid Western Sanctions Over Ukraine; 18 Norwegians Advance in ESA Astronaut Selection

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A Norwegian industrial designer is continuing to train to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft and perform a commercial spacewalk amid Western sanctions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Nima Shahinian has been training at Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City for a voyage to ISS at the end of next year. Shahinian — who is an industrial designer lead at Designit Oslo, a father of two and an Afghanistan veteran — is a client of the U.S. company Space Adventures.

In an Instagram post in Norwegian, Nima Shahinian said his training has continued without interruption. Below is a translation of his statement via Google Translate.

I will not undertake to be an expert on the conflict in Ukraine, but in these dark hours we are all witnessing a frightening change of course in European history.

With contempt, we follow what is happening to our fellow human beings, not only by virtue of being citizens of Europe, but by virtue of being citizens of our beautiful planet.

Many have asked me how this situation affects my space program, and whether I have taken a stand on the conflict, and therefore I post this post now:

I condemn all war, including this one. But as things are today, the space program itself is not affected by the conflict, and my training continues as planned until further notice. The people I have worked with in the GCTC (Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center) are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Their professionalism, personal and professional integrity, human character and beating heart for a peaceful spaceflight, where inspiration, curiosity, exploration and science are in focus are heartwarming. My instructors, interpreters and all other support staff in GCTC are my friends, and we have close ties. Not least, we have a common vision of what space travel should be about: a unison belief in what kind of wonders we humans can achieve when we come together, regardless of race, color, gender, orientation, nationality or geopolitics, because from space one sees only one planet, and not borders and a divided humanity, but us humans as one unit.

It’s not clear whether his bid to become the first Norwegian in space will be affected by sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. NASA has said that cooperation on civil space programs such as the International Space Station would not be affected by the U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian Space Agency reports that 18 Norwegians — 15 men and three women — made it through the first stage of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) astronaut selection process. The Norwegians were among 1,361 applicants to make it through the initial screening process.

More than 300 Norwegians applied to the astronaut program. ESA received a total of 22,523 valid applications from its 22 member nations.

The second phase of ESA’s astronaut selection will end on March 31.