April 13, 2017

Cosmonautics Day and Fruit in Disguise

Cosmonautics Day and Fruit in Disguise

Spacemen, spies, and detectives

1. April 12 is Cosmonautics Day, marking the anniversary of the first human spaceflight, made by Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Despite the holiday, the Russian space industry is far from thriving, having dropped below the United States and China in the space launch count. But there’s good news for the Russian cosmos, too: for one, young rocket scientists have big plans for conquering space. And also, the Soyuz MS-02 capsule safely touched down in Kazakhstan this week, carrying three cosmonauts returning from a stint on the International Space Station.

2. When you hear fruit in disguise, you might think a pineapple wearing a mask. But in the case of Russian fruit imports, apples from Poland are passed off as being from Belarus to get around sanctions. Domestic products are saving Russia money, but Russia just doesn’t have enough apples. That’s where disguised produce comes in. In most cases, the parties involved turn a blind eye to illicit imports, but prohibited products brought into the country despite are at risk of confiscation and destruction. What with the disguises, danger, and risk of death, these fruits could make a career in espionage.  

3. Noble though it was to gather in memory of the lives lost in last week’s subway explosion, an investigative journalist has shown that the allegedly spontaneous mourners were members of a pro-Kremlin movement. Spotting Anti-Maidan activists in footage and checking with the university that allegedly organized the event, the journalist found that the mourners were part of an initiative focused on bolstering the ideology of United Russia. Condemning mourners for their ideological motives might sound callous, but it shows that this “grief factory” may be the newborn cousin of the troll factory.

In Odder News

Church spires and department stores: now you see it, now you don’t. Or rather, now you see it, 100 years ago you don’t. Check out this slideshow of compared photos of Moscow a century apart.


Cosmonauts are strong, inventive, and brave. Especially the ones who smuggle alcohol – or sometimes, entire jars of pickles – into space with them.


Art is meant to shock and inspire. In this case, shock you with the horrors of bad dental hygiene and inspire you to floss every day.


Quote of the Week

    “A week before the launch we didn't eat anything except bread and tea, and we lost almost two kilograms (4.4 pounds). We packed everything in little cellophane bags and when we were being dressed, we placed the bags in the spacesuits. That's how I took off with pickles on my stomach."
    —Hero of the Soviet Union, cosmonaut Igor Volk, on his efforts to smuggle a bottle of cognac and two jars of pickles into space.

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