Leonid Kadenyuk, 67, the first astronaut of independent Ukraine, died on Jan. 31 in Kyiv.

The cause of death isn’t known yet. Kadenyuk felt sick during his morning run, according to Ukraine’s Space Agency.

“The ambulance arrived too late,” Ukraine’s Space Agency press service told the Kyiv Post on Jan. 31.

Kadenyuk was born in 1951, in Klyshkivtsi village in the western Ukrainian Chernivtsi Oblast. He started as a military pilot of the USSR air force and in 1979 became a professional astronaut.

He officially joined Ukraine’s Space Agency in 1995 and became the first and only astronaut of independent Ukraine who’s been to space.

He spent 15 days in space from Nov. 19 to Dec. 5, 1997, serving as a payload specialist of Columbia Space Shuttle mission STS-87.


It was the 88th flight of the Space Shuttle and the 24th flight of Columbia Space Shuttle. The mission goals were to conduct experiments using the United States Microgravity Payload (USMP-4).

Among 13 experiments and two spacewalks, the members of the STS-87 conducted the Collaborative Ukraine Experiment to study the effects of microgravity on plant growth.

Kadenyuk piloted more than 50 aircrafts of different types, wrote five scientific works and published memoirs “Mission-Space” in 2009, where he described the details of his travel in space.

“He was a real legend. My sincere condolences to his relatives,” Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman twitted on Jan. 31.

While Kadenyuk was the first astronaut of independent Ukraine, Ukrainians have been to space before him.

Many of the Soviet astronauts were born in Ukraine. Sergei Korolev, a famous rocket engineer and spacecraft designer, was born in Ukraine’s Zhytomyr. Korolev contributed a lot to the space industry of USSR during its space race against the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s. He was overseeing the first Soviet space missions, including the mission of astronaut Yuriy Gagarin that brought the very first human to space in April 1961.

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