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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

American Astronauts Touch Down in Russia

Two American astronauts have arrived in Moscow for a mission aimed at turning away from decades of space-race competition and promoting a bit of cosmic cooperation. Just don't expect too much cooperation at the dinner table.


Norman Thagard and Bonnie Dunbar, who flew in Thursday night, will train for a year as cosmonauts.


After living and training at the Star City compound outside Moscow, Thagard will blast into space in March 1995 aboard a Russian rocket and spend three months on the Mir space station with a Russian crew. Dunbar is his backup.


The mission, although short by Russian standards, will be the longest period ever spent in space by an American astronaut -- too long, apparently, to be without what passes for home cooking in space circles.


Thagard will carry with him some of the standard fare eaten by U.S. space shuttle astronauts, including thermostabilized meats and rehydratable vegetables.


If that doesn't sound appetizing, consider one of the Russian dishes Thagard will find: Fish aspic, a sort of sea Jell-O.


And back on Earth it won't be all borscht, beets and potatoes, either.


Dunbar admitted importing some breakfast food in her bags to take to Star City.


"I love instant Quaker oatmeal, so I have a little bit with me," she told reporters upon arriving at Moscow's Sheremetyevo-2 airport on Thursday.


Both Dunbar, 44, and Thagard, 50, said they were eager to go to work in Russia and expected to spend most of their spare time studying the language.


"Even though we've had some Russian, we'll still need a little more work at that," Thagard said. "That'll be the main problem."


The astronauts said that they expect a lot of their training here to be similar to the NASA programs they went through before shuttle missions, but that there will be a greater emphasis on physical conditioning in flight.


During long-duration space flights, cosmonauts must exercise regularly to battle bone and muscle deterioration.


"I never exercised on one of my space flights, but then they were only eight days long and I came back in fine shape," said Thagard, a veteran of four shuttle missions. "You can't do that on a three-month flight, for instance, or a longer flight."


With Thagard aboard Mir, Dunbar will fly on the U.S. shuttle that will dock with the Russian space station, deliver its new Russian crew and take Thagard back home.


"I've got a feeling I'll be real happy to see Bonnie after about three months on the Mir," Thagard said.


Both astronauts dismissed talk of the old days of the space race, and of who might have won.


"I think we called it a draw," Thagard said, "and now we've decided to go forward together."