Smithsonian Videohistory Collection

Soviet Space Medicine
(RU 9551)


The Institute for Biomedical Problems (Institut mediko-biologicheskikh problem, IMBP) was founded in 1963 to undertake the study of space medicine. It is located in Moscow, USSR, and consists of a Primate Space Flight Training Center, research laboratories and a small museum.

Cathleen S. Lewis, curator at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum (NASM), interviewed Oleg Gazenko, Evgenii Shepelev, and Abraham Genin about their research and participation in the Soviet aviation and space medicine program prior to 1964, as well as their work at the Institute. Lewis was primarily interested in documenting early work in the fields of aviation and space medicine. She also visually documented museum exhibits about the Institute's work in space exploration.


Oleg Gazenko attended The Second Moscow Medical School and The Military Medical Academy in Leningrad. He was a director of the IMBP (1967-1987) and was a specialist in gravitational physiology. He was a member of the first group of Soviet scientists to study the gravitational effects of acceleration and weightlessness on-board Soviet sounding rockets in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Gazenko participated in cooperative projects with the Life Sciences Division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and oversaw preparation and evaluation of cosmonauts for long duration spaceflights.

Abraham Genin attended The Second Moscow Medical School and The Central Institute for Advanced Training of Doctors in Moscow. His specialty is biophysics. Genin's early work dealt with biophysical problems of aviation, especially the mechanics of decompression disease. Genin also worked on the factors of life support in space: cabin pressure, weightlessness, and gravitational effects on the blood circulation.

Evgenii Shepelev attended The Second Moscow Medical School and specialized in the physiological effects of artificial environments. This work was essential for the successful execution of the Soviet space station program and it will be critical for sending people to Mars. Shepelev used himself as the subject of the first Soviet isolation experiments in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Irina Gireeva and Vladimir Magedov were also interviewed. Gireeva was an animal technician at the center; Magedov directed computer operations in the building.

Video Sessions

This collection consists of five interview sessions, totalling approximately 5:00 hours of recordings, and 86 pages of transcript. There are three generations of tape for each session: originals, dubbing masters, and reference copies. In total, this collection is comprised of 15 original videotapes (13 Beta videotapes, and 2 U-Matic videotapes), 7 dubbing master videotapes (7 U-Matic videotapes), and 6 reference copy videotapes (6 VHS videotapes). Also included is one audio interview, totalling approximately 1:15 hours of audiotape, and 19 pages of transcript.

All sessions were conducted in Russian with some English translation. Sessions were transcribed verbatim in Russian and were then translated to English.

Session One (November 28, 1989), was recorded at the IMBP. Gazenko, Genin, and Shepelev discussed activities in space medicine, from early training to work at IBMP, c. 1940-1989, including:

  • biographical information on Gazenko, Genin, and Shepelev;
  • early work in the fields of aviation and space medicine;
  • transition from aviation to space medicine;
  • human factors motivating aerospace medicine;
  • experiments with the participants themselves as subjects;
  • biological symptoms identified during early space flights;
  • planning for a Mars voyage.

Visual documentation included:

  • group interaction;
  • museum environment.

Original Masters: 7 Beta videotapes
Dubbing Masters: 3 U-Matic videotapes
Reference Copies: 2 VHS videotapes
Transcript: 47 pages
2 hours, 20 minutes

Session Two (November 28, 1989), was recorded at the IMBP. Oleg Gazenko narrated a tour of the museum gallery showing the use of animals in space exploration, c. 1940-1989, including:

  • instrumentation for experiments with mice, rats, and dogs;
  • prototype hermetic chambers;
  • Earth landing equipment;
  • canine flight clothing;
  • rat cage and flight package;
  • animal feeding and oxygen systems;
  • Biosputnik Program;
  • agreements with NASA on research in space medicine.

Visual documentation included:

  • museum gallery;
  • artifacts listed above.

Original Masters: 2 Beta videotapes
Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
Transcript: 11 pages
40 minutes

Session Three (November 29, 1989), was recorded at the IMBP. Genin narrated a tour of the gallery on manned space exploration, c. 1960-1989, including:

  • development of spacesuit and parachute systems;
  • problems of weightlessness;
  • selection of cosmonauts;
  • designing the cosmonauts couch;
  • experiments in cabin pressure;
  • safety equipment for Soyuz missions;
  • factors for life maintenance in space;
  • cooperation between the Institute and other organizations.

Visual documentation included:

  • life-sized model space sphere;
  • landing chairs;
  • photographs of cosmonauts;
  • cosmonaut's clothing;
  • training equipment.

Session Four (November 29, 1989), was recorded at the IMBP's Primate Space Flight Training Facility. Gireeva and Magedov narrated a tour, c. 1989, including:

  • primate training and conditioning for space flight;
  • the implantation of skull caps for physiological monitoring;
  • cage areas;
  • veterinary and surgical areas;
  • training equipment;
  • data processing.

Visual documentation included:

  • monkey training stations;
  • monkey with sensor attached to head;
  • operating room for implanting sensors;
  • monkey flight chairs;
  • computers.

Original Masters: 1 Beta videotape
Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
Transcript: 7 pages
20 minutes

Session Five (November 30, 1989), consisted of video images of the interiors and exteriors of the IMBP buildings, c. 1989, including:

  • front and rear exteriors of main building;
  • views of the grounds;
  • general views of museum galleries;
  • display panels;
  • close-ups of exhibit artifacts;
  • model showing future plans for Institute complex.

Original Masters: 2 U-Matic videotapes
Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
Transcript: 2 pages
40 minutes

Audio interview (November 30, 1989), was recorded at the IMBP. Shepelev discussed his work in space medicine, c. 1945-1989, including:

  • early years at the Institute for Aviation Medicine;
  • work on the design of a hermetically sealed capsule;
  • oxygen and water regeneration systems;
  • space capsule ecology, including the use of microflora;
  • difficulties in achieving reliable results in experiments;
  • activities of the Soviet-American working group for life sciences.

Original Masters: not available
Dubbing Masters: not available
Reference Copies: 1 audiotape
Transcript: 19 pages
1 hour, 15 minutes


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