Imagine turning up to your wedding knowing that your groom will not be there! Not a great start to your big day, but on 10 August 2003 bride Ekaterina Dmitrieva arrived at the auditorium at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston without her potential husband.
A Real Out of This World Wedding
Under the laws of the State of Texas registration of marriage, marriage is permissible in the absence of the groom for a good reason. The good reason in this case, was that her husband to be, Yuri Malenchenko was just over New Zealand aboard the International Space Station, on active duty as a Cosmonaut with the Russian Space Agency.
Yuri Malenchenko, may be a name you recognise?
His were the safe pair of hands that managed to manually dock the Soyuz capsule with our very own Tim Peake aboard in December 2015.
Yuri is a veteran of six missions into space, the last one with Tim Peake and Tim Kopra, but when his third mission, in 2003, was extended until October, he decided not to put off the planned August wedding date.
His tailcoat and wedding ring were flown out on a cargo ship, a fellow astronaut, Edward Lu, agreed to be the best man.
Although there were initially objections from NASA and the Russian Aerospace Agency, who discovered the plans three weeks prior to the wedding, NASA agreed to the ceremony going ahead, with strong support from the general public.
Ekaterina was born in the Soviet Union and had moved to the US when she was four years old. Her mother works at NASA as an expert on orbital programs.
The couple had met a year before on a very special night, 12 April 2002, where they were celebrating another Yuri, Gagarin, and his momentous flight, becoming the first man in space.
Since the groom was unable to be there in person, guests were greeted by a cardboard cut-out of the cosmonaut and one of his friends, a Russian Flight Surgeon, stood in for him.
The transmission was officially categorised as a “Private Family Conference” and was not publicly broadcast over NASA TV.
The bride entered the ceremony to David Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners”. As the bride left the altar, Lu played Mendelssohn’s traditional “Wedding March” music on the keyboard aboard the station.
Russian officials ultimately gave their blessing to the wedding, but said “Other cosmonauts won’t be able to do the same and such rules will be included in future pre-flight contracts, so maybe this will be the last wedding in space for a while”.