Aliens are out of this world for cosmonaut
COSMONAUT Mikhail Kornienko may have spent 176 days, one hour and 18 minutes in space, but that didn't save him from a bout of jet lag after a six-hour flight from Moscow.
The Russian had only ever seen Ireland "on the horizon" from aboard the International Space Station before his visit here this week to mark the 50th anniversary celebrations of Yuri Gagarin's trip into orbit on the first manned spaceflight.
"It was pretty far," Kornienko, who celebrates his 51st birthday today, explained with a smile.
Yet jet lag is nothing compared to what he endured on his return to Earth five months ago.
"I came back feeling like an old, old man," he said of the severe back and knee pain that has only just healed.
Yet the urge to return to space remains strong for the Russian hero who wanted to become a cosmonaut ever since he was a 12-year-old schoolboy.
Kornienko's talk last night at The Helix in Dublin City University was completely booked out, with 950 people hearing of his experiences, while a further 750 school children attended an earlier talk.
Afterwards, Brian O'Sullivan (9) from Clonee, Co Meath, said he found it so interesting that he now wants to visit space himself.
Kornienko wryly admitted that the first thing most people want to know about is aliens.
"I didn't see them. Trust me -- no aliens," he said.
He also brushed hastily over the second most common question -- how cosmonauts go to the toilet up there.
Over a slideshow of Gagarin's inaugural trip to space, Kornienko explained through an interpreter that in those days, the chances of a cosmonaut's survival were just "50:50".
Thankfully, it's safer now.