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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Drinking Stories Shock Cosmonauts

Itar-TassGrigory Grechko
Russian cosmonauts have reacted with shock and disbelief to allegations by an independent medical panel that a U.S. astronaut was drunk aboard a Russian spacecraft.

The independent U.S. panel reviewing astronaut health issues said Friday that it was told about multiple instances involving alcohol, including a case involving an astronaut flying aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to the international space station.

Panel chairman Air Force Colonel Richard Bachmann, cited unverified interviews and said it was not the panel's mission to investigate the allegations.

The Federal Space Agency denied the allegations Saturday.

"This is absolutely impossible at Baikonur in the days leading up to a launch," Federal Space Agency spokesman Igor Panarin said. "Astronauts are under the constant watch of medics and psychiatrists."

Cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyov said the tight medical requirements and the demands of the job ahead made it inconceivable that astronauts or cosmonauts would fly drunk.

''The responsibility dominates your thoughts ... and directs all your actions," Solovyov said. "For me this is nonsense.''

Cosmonaut Grigory Grechko also found the reports difficult to believe.

"The launch is a very dangerous moment ... when your complete attention is on the flight," he said. "Do you really think a person set for a flight that sometimes takes years to prepare for is going to be drinking?"

Grechko suggested that the smell of alcohol reported to have been coming from the U.S. astronaut might have been the result of disinfecting spirits used to wipe down cosmonauts in Russia before they fly.

But Grechko said there were exceptions to the no-drinking rule, like New Year's Eve.

In 1977, he was one of the cosmonauts who founded the Soviet, and now Russian tradition of drinking a New Year's toast in space when the crew opened a bottle of cognac on board the Salyut-6 spacecraft.

AP, MT