Saturday, 28 March 2015

Cosmonaut Callsigns (A List)

For years, I've been seeing mentions of Soviet and Russian spacecraft being linked with their crews' radio callsigns, rather than naming the vessel. And for years, I assumed I'd be able to find a definitive list of all of these callsigns, somewhere. But I now get the impression that no such list exists (in English, at least), and so I've decided to draw it up for myself. Please do let me know if there's anything to add or correct, preferably with good sources I can trust for future additions.

I've put the callsigns in alphabetical order, along with the number of vessels that callsign has been applied to (or, if you like, the number of vessels that cosmonaut commanded under that callsign). I have assumed, though can't find clear confirmation yet, that if a vessel goes up with one commander, docks, swaps crews, and comes down with a different commander, that it will use both commanders' callsigns at some point. All sources I've seen only ever seem to list the launching commanders' callsigns.

I'm also uncertain about the interaction of crew callsigns and space stations (the Salyuts and Mir). As far as I can tell, crew callsigns have never been applied to the stations hosting the crew, but this is sketchy.

There are some complications with transliteration between Cyrillic and  Roman alphabets, and I hope I'm giving the best possible versions. I only know enough to know that I'm probably getting something wrong. I plan to add all the Cyrillic spellings to this table at a later point, so anyone who knows better can correct me.

Obviously, there's some overlap between themes, especially between astronomy and mythology, but also between a lot of the geographical features. I've aimed to identify the intended theme as accurately as I can find, but finding isn't always easy.

The two big meta-themes seem to be "shit we can spot out the window from space" and "vaguely sciencey shit", with a smaller number of interesting exceptions.

Callsign Cosmonaut Number
English translation Theme
Agat Yuri Malenchenko 5 Agate Mineral
Almaz Pavel Belyayev 1 Diamond Mineral
Gennady Padalka
5 Altair Astronomy
Vladimir Shatalov
1 Amur River
Oleg Kononenko
2 Antares Astronomy
Georgi Shonin
1 Antaeus Mythology
Argon Georgi Beregovoi 1 Argon Element
Astraeus Anton Shkaplerov 2 Astraeus Mythology
Baikal Boris Volynov 2 Baikal Lake
Basalt Sergei Krikalev 1 Basalt Mineral
Berkut Pavel Popovich 2 Golden Eagle Bird
Buran[1] Anatoli Filipchenko 2 Blizzard Meteorology
Burlak Aleksey Ovchinin 1 Barge-hauler Person[14]
Chayka Valentina Tereshkova 1 Seagull Bird
Cheget Vladimir Vasyutin 1 Cheget Mountain
Derbent Viktor Afanasyev 5 Derbent City
Dnepr Leonid Popov 5 Dnieper River
Donbass Alexander Volkov 2 Donbass Region
Dunay Genadi Sarafanov 1 Danube River
Elbrus Anatoli Berezovoy 2 Elbrus Mountain
Eridan Sergei Volkov 3 Eridanus Astronomy
Favor Sergey Ryzhikov 1 Favour? Still translating ?
Foton Vladimir Kovalyonok 4 Photon Particle
Fregat Valery Korzun 1 Frigate Nautical
Granit Vladimir Shatalov 2 Granite Mineral
Ingul Alexander Kaleri 2 Inhul River
Irkut Anatoli Ivanishin 1 Irkut River
Jupiter Yuri Malyshev 3 Jupiter Astronomy
Karat Pavel Vinogradov 2 Carat Mass Unit[2]
Kavkaz Pyotr Klimuk 3 Caucasus Mountain
Kazbek Oleg Novitskiy 2 Kazbek Mountain
Kedr Yuri Gagarin 1 Siberian Pine[3] Tree
Kristall Talgat Musabayev 3 Crystal Material
Mayak Leonid Kizim 4 Beacon Navigation
Okean Vladimir Titov 3[4] Ocean Water
Olimp Fyodor Yurchikhin 3 Olympus Mountain
Orion[5] Valery Kubasov 2 Orion Mythology
Oryol Gherman Titov 1 Eagle Bird
Ozone Anatoly Artsebarsky 1 Ozone Meteorology
Pamir Vladimir Dzhanibekov 6 Pamir Mountain
Parus Roman Romanenko[6] 2 Sail Nautical
Persei[7] Nikolai Budarin 1 Perseus Astronomy
Proton[8] Vladimir Lyakhov 5 Proton Particle
Pulsar Oleg Kotov 3 Pulsar Astronomy
Radon Vyacheslav Zudov 1 Radon Element
Rassvet Valery Tokarev 1 Dawn Astronomy
Rodnik Anatoly Solovyev 6 Spring Water
Rubin Vladimir Komarov 2 Ruby Mineral
Rusich[13] Yuri Lonchakov 1 Russian Demonym
Saturn Nikolai Rukavishnikov 1 Saturn Astronomy
Sirius Vasili Tsibliyev 2 Sirius Astronomy
Skiph Yuri Onufrienko 1 Scythian[9] Demonym
Sokol Andrian Nikolayev 2 Falcon Bird
Soyuz Alexei Leonov[10] 1 Union Political
Taimyr Yuri Romanenko 5 Taymyr River
Tarkhany Aleksandr Samokutyayev 2 Tarkhan Demonym
Terek Viktor Gorbatko 3 Terek River
Tian Shan Salizhan Sharipov 1 Tian Shan Mountain
Tsephi Maksim Surayev 2 Cepheus Astronomy
Uragan Vladimir Dezhurov 1 Hurricane Meteorology
Ural Vasili Lazarev 2 Ural Mountain
Uran Yuri Gidzenko 6 Uranus[11] Astronomy
Utyos Aleksandr Skvortsov 2 Cliff Geology
Varyag Dmitri Kondratyev 1 Varangian Demonym
Vityaz Alexander Viktorenko 5 Knight Mythology
Vostok[12] Mikhail Tyurin 2 East Navigation
Vulkan Gennadi Manakov 2 Volcano Geology
Yantar Georgi Dobrovolski 1 Amber Mineral
Yastreb Valery Bykovsky 4 Hawk Bird
Yenisei Sergei Zalyotin 3 Yenisei River
Zenit Aleksei Gubarev 2 Zenith Navigation

1. Not to be confused with the shuttle Buran. Anyone know what the plan for crew callsigns was going to be if Buran had become operational?

2. Possible mistranslation?

3. Often mistranslated as 'cedar' or 'Siberian cedar', just because it sounds a bit similar.

4. Arguably 4 vessels, if you count the unsuccessful launch of Soyuz T-10a.

5. Not to be confused with the Apollo 16 LM, nor the new MPCV.

6. I can't seem to find a good reference now, but I remember reading years ago that Roman Romanenko had wanted to re-use his father Yuri's callsign of Taimyr, but this was overruled. Even so, I still keep finding sources that apply that callsign to him, instead of Parus.

7. I struggled to find this one, and got only a single reference on some unofficial forums. Confirmation would be nice.

8. Not to be confused with the Proton rocket.

9. Possible mistranslation, as this also seems to translate to skiff (as in the boat type, which would fit well with Fregat) and scythe (as in the agricultural tool, which seems out of place on this list).

10. Soyuz is a special, unusual case, and arguably was the name of the vessel (with the mission code of Soyuz 19), regardless of which cosmonauts were assigned to it, and not the callsign of its commanding cosmonaut. However, since Leonov never commanded any other mission, this does appear to be his de facto callsign either way. The name does translate to Union, but in this case, this callsign was definitely named after the vessel class, the Soyuz, and not after the Soviet Union (which is what the class was named after, so it's not maximally simple).

11. Possible mistranslation, as Uran also means uranium.

12. Not to be confused with the Vostok spacecraft.

13. Note discussion about this one in the comments.

 14. Burlaks arguably fit into several categories (e.g. rivers, navigation, water, maybe even demonyms), but not into any one especially well, so I'm assuming for now that it's better to put that name into a new category of its own.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Compare and Contrast

I'd like to do something quite unfair, but I think revealing. Below I have two arbitrary snippings from my social media wossnames, which serve to illustrate two extreme perspectives on the concept of privilege. Both are trimmed of all subsequent comments, and I've kept them anonymous to focus on the words over all else.

The first is extreme in the sense of thinking about it a whole lot and really wanting to share understanding of it with others:

Seems very straightforward to me.

The second is extreme in the opposite sense, in refusing to think about it so much that anyone suggesting that it should be thought about must be fought off.

Also... straightforward, I guess? The full context behind this was the choice of cover art for a comic.

The contrast is stark. The former is calmly explaining not just that there is a problem, but why there is a problem, and why we all ought to take a part in addressing it. It's not maximally comprehensive - it's only a few paragraphs long - but it gets to the core of the issue quite effectively. Apart from the final line's snark, it could easily be a Captain Picard speech.

The latter is not calm, not cogent, not anywhere near as well thought through. It's not even one of the badly written Captain Archer speeches. But the key difference, to me, is the perfectly self-centered nature of it. DC must do what this guy wants. Anyone with any other ideas can't possibly have their own valid goals and points of view, they secretly just want to screw with this guy, because this guy's enjoyment of comics is the focus of all things, to everyone. They must also not get in the way of what this guy wants. Anyone who does is a nasty, evil Social Justice Warrior, and this guy curses them with the threat of the mighty Streisand Effect. Because a corporate content choice based on any sort of public input that isn't what this guy wants is the same thing as evil censorship.

It's kind of sad. Especially the complete inability and/or refusal to accept that other people might have real needs, and that these needs might be more pressing than a mere comic. And I say this as a seasoned comic reader, with a collection begun in the '80s, and as a former comic shop sales monkey. I am not anti-comic, they're generally good and positive things on average, but they clearly aren't very important compared with most social problems. Suggesting the reverse is your choice of madness or stupidity.

But I don't think this is even about comics, really. I'd say this is an expression of the exact opposite of what that first person was talking about, the solidarity, the surrender, the clamping down in the name of friendship and cooperation and progress. When you won't do any of those things, apparently you freak the fuck out in the opposite direction, opting for lonely, bitter, self-satisfying solitude over difficult, uncomfortable solidarity. And I have to admit, I do kind of get it.

There's an interesting concept called White Fragility, and I think it's hardly any leap at all to apply fragility to other privileged/oppressed discussions too. Back in apartheid days, my mom made damn sure I was aware of our white privilege. It made me cringe with embarrassment and helplessness every time it came up, because I was 5 or 6, and I really was helpless back then. But that ensured I couldn't feign ignorance as an adult, and I felt no fragility about that. Much trickier was my entry into feminism. That was something I only really started taking fully seriously in my late 20s, and my early- to mid-20s were a regrettable messy series of things going wrong in conversations between me and women, someone kindly explaining my error to me, and my male fragility utterly failing to accept any of it, thus making things much, much worse. There are quite a few women (and a smaller number of men) who quite rightly haven't spoken to me since those days.

But I got over that fragility, I toughed up and learned to accept that I can't have every damn thing my own way all the time. And my life has been much more pleasant ever since.

I'm sure you could find a better written piece to replace the second thing I quoted, something intellectually on the same level as the first piece. I did admit right at the start that I wasn't being totally fair here. But why would you want to? Explaining things well is important, obviously, but the choice here boils down towards the extremes of "help other people" and "fuck other people". And no amount of intellectual rigour really makes the latter a nice thing.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Burning Daylight - a WFRP2 scenario you can have

Many long years ago, I started writing a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay module for Icon 2013, and many long years ago minus a few months, it was actually played there. I had intended to very quickly put out a public version of the module, for general public use, but mid-to-late 2013 was a very messy time for me. Hardly anything really needed changing - I've left it in standard convention module format - but I just never got around to it, til now. You can now have the full text of Burning Daylight, so long as you don't sell it on to anyone. If you want to run it at another con, just contact me first.

I should make absolutely clear that this should only be downloaded and read by GMs, not by scummy, cheating players. Get back, you damn dirty players!

The brochure blurb explains what it's all about, without any spoilers:

Few accusations will spread fear as fast.

Suffering a witch to live is one of the greatest crimes in the Empire, not only because of the witch’s own evil, but because letting them continue that evil shows one is also corrupted by the forces of Chaos. Having survived war and ill fortune, situated uncomfortably close to the cursed county of Sylvania and just down river from the dead city of Mordheim, the town of Krugenheim now faces a threat from within. Accusing the wrong person - and letting the real witch escape - would be disastrous.
Exciting, isn't it?

It's written as a single session (approx. 3 hours), for 4-6 players (plus GM), using the WFRP 2nd Ed. rules, though it's pretty light on dice, so should be dirt-easy to convert to WFRP1 too, and could probably be wedged into most other fantasy and historical RPGs with some tinkering. I had Call of Cthulhu in mind while writing it, so that at least should be a reasonable alternative system you could use.

As for context, it's set in the woodland wilderness of the central Empire, in a fairly isolated little town, and it's 2523, not long after the Storm of Chaos. Both the time and place could conceivably be altered, though that might take quite a bit of re-writing.

Burning Daylight can be downloaded here.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Art in a Vacuum

While I wait for crewed spacecraft naming to catch up with me again, I've finally gotten together another little collection I've been thinking about for a while. Naming a spacecraft is fundamentally very easy, just as easy as naming a person: You just tell people what it's called and then they call it that. But vessel naming - going back to aircraft and watercraft and trains and wossnames - has also had a long tradition of literally spelling out the craft's name on the hull, sometimes with the goal of maximum clarity, sometimes for decoration, sometimes both. Aircraft in particular have a solid legacy of nose art, and since all of the earliest astronauts were pilots (and in particular, military pilots from an era when nose art was especially common), it was almost inevitable that some spacecraft would be decorated in this way too. It serves both as a way for the crew to feel connected with their vessel, and for outsiders to share something of that connection.

Of course, there were already things painted all over rockets, in the even more standard conventions of military bureaucracy and military nationalism. Flags and logos and serial numbers were always there, and corporate logos soon became just as common. Soviet rocket markings were generally much more muted in every way, though recent Russian vehicles have started to reverse this habit.

So, I want to catalogue the pretty things we've added to the things that took us into space. But I'm limiting my selection here in a few ways:

1. First, only stuff on the vehicle, not mission patches and tshirts and shit worn by the crew. Many of those are pretty and/or interesting, and there are many more of them to discuss, but I'm focusing on the vessels, plus mission patches have been studied (and sold) to death elsewhere. I'm also highly amused by highly amusing mission posters, but those are again more about the crew inside than the vessel they're in.

2. I'm only interested in unique and "personal" markings, not generic ones, including national, administrative or commercial markings. We can argue about what that exactly means, but I've got a fairly strong gut feeling.

3. The identity of the vessel is the main focus, though that doesn't necessarily mean a written name. You know, art.

4. I'm only looking at crewed spacecraft that actually got into space.

So, to begin...

The earliest unique hull art/marking was the name on the Mercury 3 capsule, Freedom 7. It wasn't much, very plain and not very big, but it was intended to set a precedent for the astronauts who followed, a precedent that NASA management & PR people would later fight out of existence at least once. As much as the astronauts wanted to mark their territory, the engineers felt it was more their territory, and the political sensitivity of a big government spend in the full glare of the media made a lot of people nervous of faux pas. Given that hostility, it's not surprising that Shepard went with something low-key and easily as nationalisty as anything else painted on his pod.

[Edit: It may be worth noting that the planned but unflown Freedom 7-II spacecraft is painted - presumably at Shepard's own instruction - with the exact same Freedom 7 marking, imposed over a big, yellow Roman numeral II.]

Then there was the very clever Liberty Bell 7. The name was lettered in a similar style to Freedom 7, but with the genius addition of a big painted "crack" along the bell-shaped capsule, mirroring that on the actual Liberty Bell. It annoys the fuck out me that nobody ever seems to have taken an unobstructed photo of this complete paint job.

Next came Friendship 7, first to break out the fancy fonts and non-white paint!

Aurora 7 added even more colour, borrowing the big '7' from Friendship 7, and adding a bunch of multi-hued circles, evidently meant to represent auroras, maybe? I'm personally inclined to call this one the most amateurish hull art on this list; it's got lots of shiny colours, but it is frankly a bit of an incoherent mess, when you really study it.

Returning to the really clever, Sigma 7 took advantage of the Greek letter it was named after to portray its name without actually writing its name out in full.

Last of the Mercuries, Faith 7 had a big, prominent paint job, but I don't really get it. Is the name inside of a big, white star because it's in space? Or because it's American? Or is that some religious symbol I don't recognise? Some combination? It's hard to find a good picture of it, and harder still to find any explanations.

Then the Americans did away with hull art for years, and the replacement concession was the introduction of crew suit patches. It wasn't until the Moon landings that anything got to go on the hull of the vessels, but that was an opportunity to show off that was too hard to miss.

Apollo 11's Eagle got the very first inscribed plaque, rather than paint, spelling out with presumably greater permanence who it was who had left their litter all over Tranquility Base. There's a lot going on there, with all sorts of stuff about who sent it and why, but no actual mention of the vessel or mission name. I suppose it was supposed to be representing all of (the men part of) humanity, not just the one mission. But then sticking Nixon's name on it kind of spoils that (not least because he was bombing South East Asia at the time).

The other vessel of the same mission, Columbia, got its own ad hoc pseudo-plaque, on an interior control panel. Collins added this detail after the mission, and while its beauty is debatable, it is clearly the most personal marking on any spacecraft. (I also find interesting to compare his signature on each vessel.)

Apollo 12's Intrepid got the blandest of the plaques. It doesn't even name the Intrepid directly, and all the global symbolism and fancy prose are gone.

But at the same time, if uncomfirmed reports are true, Apollo 12 also delivered the first pure art to the Moon.

Apollo 13, as always, is a funny exception. It carried two plaques, both intended for the lunar module Aquarius. The first, with Mattingly's name on it, was already packed up and in place when he was removed from the flight, so the second version, with Swigert's name instead, was carried inside with the crew, who intended to replace it once they'd landed on the Moon. Since that never happened, the Mattingly version was lost with Aquarius and the Swigert version was brought all the way back to Earth, never having smelled any vacuum. Either way, it was the first time since Faith 7 that a spacecraft had been marked with its own name. It also marked a compromise in between the very busy plaque of Apollo 11 and the barren plaque of Apollo 12, which would be the style followed by Apollos 14 to 16 too.

Apollo 14's Antares plaque shows the standard form set up by Apollo 13.

Apollo 15's Falcon shows the same, but...

Apollo 15 also delivered the first official space art, the Fallen Astronaut. I like the sentiment, but I do think the piece itself is a bit lame. It's not even as good as a Human Being. Note that the plaque is also in the standard Apollo style.

Orion carried the last of the very standard Apollo plaques.

Apollo 17's Challenger got a plaque that reverted back to the Apollo 11 standard, with vessel identity replaced with human (well, man, at least) unity and achievement. The addition of the Moon map marked with landing sites sort of acts as a full stop on the program.

[EDIT: Adding Apollo-Soyuz plaque.]

The Apollo-Soyuz international mission was largely symbolic (and that was a good thing!), and yet was pretty short on explicit symbols. The crew patch was an interesting reversible one, so that neither state could claim it unfairly favoured the other, but otherwise the craft and crew were kept pretty plain, because, I guess, of political skittishness. This would not have been the mission to unleash Grissomish (let alone Warholic) creativity on. Even so, there was this fairly interesting two-part plaque, completed in orbit, which was more exciting than the very neat Apollo LM plaques. This late addition contradicts my assertion further down that the Soviets didn't engage in space art, but in my defence, this A.) wasn't external hull art, and I only barely decided this counted sufficiently to add to this article at all, and 2.) it took US influence to induce this small step in that direction. Still, I like the result.

With the space shuttle came the opportunity to name new things and repaint them as needed. And initially, they kind of got it wrong, painting Columbia's name on the cargo bay door, so that it wouldn't be visible whenever the bay was folded open. This is the low point in NASA hull art, where they haven't even gone for pure pragmatism and blank hulls. They've put the name on, but somehow not understood what for. I've spent hours looking at shuttle photos and even with the slightly better later arrangement, it's still annoyingly tricky telling one shuttle apart from another. They lacked clear visual identity.

Here's Challenger with the slightly better name placement, just in front of the cargo bay doors.

And Discovery, the same.

And Atlantis with a later update on the general paint scheme. Note in all cases what's most and least visible in each paint job.

One thing I can credit them with on the shuttle is at least repeating the name, so it might (probably not, but might) be visible from multiple angles. Endeavour illustrates the starboard hull and wing names.

SpaceShipOne was the first since Liberty Bell 7, four decades earlier, to consider the entire vessel as a canvas. The white and red were necessary engineering elements, and someone realised that compulsory foundation could be exploited for (rather pretty) nationalist porpoises. I especially like the negative switch between blue and white stars. The gentle curves painted on the carrier plane, White Knight, are actually a very different style, but the matching colours keep the two looking like an obvious pair.

Russia finally got in to proper (by my standards) hull art in 2011, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight. After the stark blankness of Soviet-era spacecraft, and a few forays into space advertising (which I won't dignify with further comment), they finally went for this relatively bold double piece. The Soyuz TMA-21 capsule was named Gagarin (individual vessel naming is extremely rare for a Soviet/Russian spacecraft) and this was painted in big letters on the rocket shroud, in the place where the class name is normally painted on contemporary Soyuzes. There was also a stylised picture of Gagarin's helmeted face painted on both the shroud and the capsule itself.

Soyuz TMA-11M got an amazing mosaic of, I guess, traditional Russian art, all over the launch rocket. It's quite a lot of area covered (I count 8 distinct 'rings' of painting, each around 2m high), even though most of the rocket remains conventionally painted. Even so, I'm not quite sure if this one counts, by my standards, because it was really all just an elaborate advert, not a true personalisation of the vessel for its own sake. Worse still, it was advertising the homophobe Olympics at Sochi. I don't think it's coincidence that the actual Soyuz capsule inside was left unchanged, and the flashy exterior was just a facade around that.

Finally, if Soyuz TMA-11M counts, then TMA-14M probably counts too, even though it only featured one smaller art ring around its launch rocket (and I can't even really see what it its, apart from blue and blobby) and another much bigger, clearer ring explicitly advertising the Kazan swimming championships. I'm pretty damn sure I shouldn't include this one, but the slippery slope of TMA-11M's less explicit promotional art creates an annoying segue.

There was a fashion in the '90s for airlines to paint their aircraft from nose to tail in interesting, unusual schemes. This was presumably abandoned due to loss of brand recognition or some shit, but it was really very pretty, for a few years. I think when spacecraft can be painted that freely, it will indicate an important level of maturity in our spacecraft development (in the same way that teenagehood is, technically, a level of maturity).

I mainly can't help thinking that this is a badly under-used medium. Surely there's huge room for creativity when you're literally launching your art into space?