We are about to find out who our real friends are

Sergei Krikalev on the space shuttle
Russian Sergei Krikalev on the space shuttle, February 1994.

When in 2002 I was writing my space history, Leaving Earth, I spent more than a month interviewing Russian astronauts in Moscow. Many of those individuals had also flown on the American space shuttle during the initial Mir-Shuttle joint missions followed by the start of the assembly of ISS, which had given them a unique opportunity to get an outsider’s perspective on American culture.

One man Sergei Krikalov, was especially unique. He not only was the first Russian to train at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, he was the first Russian to fly on the space shuttle, and the first to enter ISS’s first module after launch. Because of that experience, he also spoke excellent English, which meant he could describe his experiences to me directly, and not through an interpreter.

When it came to American culture, he noted how as a Russian, he was appalled at the empty nature of American friendships.
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