Being an astronaut takes years of training and dedication, so people who choose this profession are there for a reason. They earned their spot by beating hundreds of potential applicants and possessing a relentless drive to venture into space. Soviet cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev knew the risks, and he got more of his fill of space exploration. He was sent on what was supposed to be a routine voyage, but when things on Earth went awry, his mission — and his life — were in danger.

Sergei’s original mission was to spend five months on the Mir Space Station, as the only cosmonaut abroad. He’d been training for this opportunity for years. Originally, he had an engineering degree and had trained as a pilot, but when he was accepted into the program, he moved to space operation.