Aleksandr Mikhailovich Samokutyaev was born on March 13, 1970 in Penza, Russia and is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Russian Air Force and a Cosmonaut with one prior long-duration mission to the International Space Station.
Samokutyaev graduated from high school №56 in Penza before enrolling in the Penza Polytechnic Institute, after one year transitioning to Chernigov Higher Military Aviation School from which he graduated in 1992 as a Pilot Engineer. Entering active service, Samokutyaev was assigned a position at Chernigov pilot school before working at a helicopter school in the Ukraine. Later, he served in the 1st Army, becoming the head of the squadron serving in the Eastern Military District.
From 1998 to 2000, Samokutyaev studied at the Yuri Gagarin Military Air Academy, becoming a Military Pilot Third Class. Over the course of his service, he flew the Vilga-35A, L-13, Blanik, L-39, and Su-24M aircraft, logging more than 680 hours. He also performed 250 parachute jumps while in service, having started parachute jumping while he was still in school. In the armed forces, Samokutyaev received several medals and honors.
Beginning in 2000, he started in the position of planning division head at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. He applied for the Cosmonaut Program and began medical testing in late 2002, being cleared for Cosmonaut training by January 2003. The Interdepartmental Commission selected him as a Cosmonaut Candidate and Samokutyaev entered basic training and evaluations in June 2003. After two years of training, he received his qualification as a Test Cosmonaut with excellent results.
Starting in 2005, Samokutyaev entered ISS specific training to prepare for a long-duration mission to the Space Station. In 2008, he was assigned a backup position on the crew of Soyuz TMA-18 and ISS Expedition 25 before being assigned a prime crew position for Expedition 27. Entering flight-specific training and training for flight on the Soyuz-TMA spacecraft, he also underwent more medical tests and was awarded the rank of Cosmonaut at the Gagarin Spaceflight Training Center in 2010.
In March 2010, Samokutyaev and his fellow crew members Andrei Borisenko and Scott Kelly completed final exams as part of their backup crew assignment passing ISS and Soyuz exams with good and excellent grades. They were approved as backup crew for Soyuz TMA-18, attending the launch in April 2010. After some crew shifts, Ron Garan was assigned to Samokutyaev’s and Borisenko’s crew that was now the prime crew for Soyuz TMA-21 and ISS Expedition 27/28.
After another year of mission-specific training at NASA, Roscosmos, ESA and JAXA, the three crew members attended final pre-flight exams at the Gagarin Spaceflight Training Center in March 2011. The crew passed all exams with excellent results, being cleared as the prime crew for Soyuz TMA-21 commanded by Aleksandr Samokutyaev.
Soyuz TMA-21 launched on April 4, 2011 atop a Soyuz FG rocket that successfully carried its three crew members into orbit. Docking at ISS two days after launch, the three crew members were set for a six-month stint aboard the orbiting outpost joining Dimitri Kondratyev, Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli who were already aboard ISS.
The crew of Expedition 27 supported the daily experiment operations conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory and continued the ongoing outfitting and assembly of the International Space Station. The six crew members oversaw the departure of the Progress M-09M spacecraft and the arrival of the next Progress cargo craft that made an automated docking to ISS. In May 2011, the crew welcomed Space Shuttle Endeavour on its final mission to ISS.
STS-134 delivered the Alpha-Magnetic Spectrometer to ISS as well as an Express Logistics Carrier and the Orbiter Boom Sensor System. During STS-134, assembly of ISS was declared complete, marking the successful conclusion of the long ISS assembly process. The crew of Soyuz TMA-20 packed up while Endeavour was still docked to ISS. Undocking and retreating from ISS, the Soyuz crew members were treated to a unique sight with Endeavour docked to ISS, acquiring a series of iconic photos, taking advantage of one of the final chances to see a Shuttle docked to ISS before the program ended later in 2011.
Endeavour departed ISS in late May, leaving only three crew members aboard ISS until the next Soyuz in line, TMA-02M, brought Sergei Volkov, Mike Fossum, and Satoshi Furukawa to the station. The crew supported the departure of the second Automated Transfer Vehicle and the arrival of the Progress M-11M spacecraft before greeting Space Shuttle Atlantis, making the final ever Space Shuttle mission. STS-135 stayed at ISS for nine days, delivering a bulk of internal cargo items via the MPLM Rafaello. The mission featured one EVA.
In August 2011, Aleksandr Samokutyaev and Sergei Volkov performed a 6-hour 23-minute spacewalk completing a variety of tasks on the exterior of the Russian segment.
Tasks performed by the crew included the release of a small satellite, the installation of the Laser Communications Equipment, the installation of a biological exposure payload and the removal of a KURS antenna from the Poisk Module. The main task of the EVA, the relocation of the Strela 1 cargo boom, had to be deferred due to time limitations.
Soyuz TMA-21 returned to Earth on September 16, 2011, bringing Aleksandr Samokutyaev, Andrei Borisenko and Ron Garan back to Earth after a 164-day and 6-hour mission.
Following his flight, Samokutyaev returned to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center where he completed nominal post-flight operations before re-entering ISS training and Mission Operations.
In September 2012, Samokutyaev was announced as the replacement for Dimitry Kondratyev on ISS Expedition 41/42 who has left the Cosmonaut group to explore new endeavors. Joining the crew of Yelena Serova and Barry Wilmore, Samokutyaev will be the commander of Soyuz TMA-14M and a Flight Engineer during Expedition 41/42.
In January 2013, the crew passed survival training in winter conditions in a forest near Moscow to train for emergency Soyuz landings in extreme weather conditions. By February 2014, Samokutyaev was cleared by Russian flight doctors as part of his assignment to the Expedition 39/40 backup crew.
In February and March 2014, he and his crew underwent final exams in ISS and Soyuz operations passing with an excellent grade of 4.97 – being declared ready for flight on the Soyuz as a Commander. The backup crew was officially declared ready for flight on March 24, 2014, but the backup crew was not needed for the mission of Soyuz TMA-12M.
Aleksandr Samokutyaev is married to Oksana Nikolaevna Samokutyaeva, they have one daughter, Anastasia. In his free time, he enjoys cars, traveling, and ice hockey.