From 'astronautas' to cosmonauts, space enthusiasm is a global phenomenon
Late last year, hundreds of thousands of spectators lined up on the shores of Florida's space coast under a dark and starry sky, waiting for the historic Artemis I mission to launch. The mission would send an uncrewed spacecraft to the moon and back -- the first time a human capsule would leave low-Earth orbit in more than a half century. Despite the launch carrying no crew, spectators had been waiting for hours, bringing along their camping gear as they watched NASA take the first step towards taking humans back to the moon.
But the enthusiasm doesn’t stop there. Almost every week, there is a launch from Florida’s space coast that brings space enthusiasts to its shores. It's hardly the only place hosting space fans — space enthusiasm knows no bounds.
Russian space coverage
Soviet Union cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to reach space in 1961, a key milestone in the Cold War-era space race between the Soviets and the U.S. After that historic flight, the Soviet Union’s space program became an important part of that country’s history -- taught in schools as a point of nationalistic pride. Despite that celebrated history, details of the space program were not often widely shared.
Russian Space Journalist Anatoly Zak said the Baikonur Cosmodrome may be the world’s first spaceport used for human launches, but it is a much different reality than the spaceport at the United State’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“There is no very developed infrastructure”said Zak of the Russian space launch facility. “There is one railway line, one road line. You have to be really well prepared to travel around.You really have to be prepared for survival. You have to travel long distances [and] be in a desert environment”
Despite the ongoing war against Ukraine, some access is starting to develop in Baikonur, with a small number of tourist groups traveling to the space center for historic launches. But Zak said it is still nowhere near the ease of access Floridians have to the space station.
“You just booked a hotel on the night of your arrival, no problem. Nothing like that [in Baikonur] you have to be prepared and you have to arrange things well in advance.”
Aside from being physically detached from a popularized area, Zak said another major difference between Baikonur and Florida’s Kennedy Space Center is the climate. While Florida has warmth and sunshine with some rainfall, Baikonur has a rough and cold climate.
That frigid climate does have its perks. Although the climate is rough, it is stable -- meaning not as many weather-related delays like we see here in Florida.
While Zak covers an array of space news from all over the world, the relationship he has with the Russian space program is vastly different from the one he shares with NASA. Although reporters face similar challenges everywhere they go, Zak said he must be careful with his coverage on the Russian program.
“You cannot write negative things or talk about problems, you have to be 100% positive,” he said. ”That Wall Street Journal reporter is now sitting in prison for essentially for doing his job. That dilemma for journalism is everywhere but even more so in Russia.”
Listo para lanzamiento - Go for launch
Space doesn’t just stretch the limits of physical distance-- it goes beyond language barriers as well. As launches become more and more of a daily occurrence in Florida, the space program is catching the attention of the Hispanic community. Manuel Mazzanti is an Argentinian journalist who covers space for Spanish speakers.
He said the community from Latin America to Spain is curious about space exploration despite very little coverage in their native language.
“They usually consume media in English, they see live streams in English, but I think it was a great idea to have someone here telling them what's going on,” said Mazzanti, who aims to take his Spanish-speaking audience to rocket launches from NASA’s press site.
Despite launches being the most popular events in the space industry, Mazzanti tries to keep his audience informed with things happening behind the scenes as well.
“One of my objectives in coming to the Space Coast is going after different companies, startups or well-established companies and trying to interview them, and trying to know the teams and the infrastructure they are using to build, the satellites that is going to space, and is going to allow us to grow the economy in lower orbit.”
Mazzanti hopes as interest in space exploration grows, so will the number of Spanish space journalists on the space coast. While all major news networks cover the biggest launches, NASA’s Artemis moon missions, he hopes to form a community of local space journalists.
“It would be nice to have at least a small community of regulars covering all the launches.I'm the only one living here and trying to be at every launch and trying to report what's going on here. But I think that is going to happen sooner or later.”