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Saturday, 5 August, 2000, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Cosmonauts head for the sun
Mir over the earth
Crew destination: The Canary Islands
By BBC Russia analyst Steven Eke

Russian cosmonauts now have the chance to relax in the Canary Islands after hard work in space, following the signing of an agreement between Russian and Spanish authorities.

A precedent was set last year when Russian cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev was offered a free holiday in the Canary Islands.

Sergei Avdeyev
Sergei Avdeyev: Record-holder
Mr Avdeyev is the world's most experienced space traveller, having spent nearly 700 days in space over an eight-year period - some of it stranded on board Russia's battered and accident-prone Mir space station.

Now, the tourist secretary for the Canary Islands has finalised an agreement with Moscow's Institute of Biological Medicine to send cosmonauts to the islands on holiday after they return to Earth.

The first Russian crews will travel to the islands in October.

After long periods in space, cosmonauts feel confused and depressed.

Gran Canaria
Depressed cosmonauts will be able to recuperate here
Space is - after all - a deeply unnatural environment for human beings to live in.

The effects on the body can be severe, including disruption to balance, sickness, muscle wasting and heart problems.

Cosmonauts have to engage in long periods of exercise to recover their fitness.

Russia has for many years conducted experiments on the effects of prolonged periods in space on the human body, in preparation for a long-planned journey to Mars.

But Russia can no longer afford an ambitious space programme.

Now with the prospect of Spanish sun, sea and sand, the cosmonauts have a greater incentive to complete their missions.

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See also:

03 Apr 00 | Europe
Cosmonauts set to revive Mir
17 Mar 00 | Wales
Cosmonauts touch down in Wales
29 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Fights during space test
16 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Mir actor remains grounded
17 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Mir to be turned into hotel
16 Sep 99 | Sci/Tech
Mir: The end
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