Moscow (AFP)

Russia on Thursday introduced a new space suit for its cosmonauts, whose design could put an end to a decades-old tradition of urinating on a bus wheel taking them to the rocket before take-off.

The prototype Sokol-M suit was shown to the public at an air show near Moscow. In the future, it will have to replace the suits worn during launches to the International Space Station.

According to its builder, the Russian aerospace firm Zvezda, the combination is made of "new materials" and adaptable to different body types. Current models must be tailor-made for each cosmonaut.

A big problem however: the new model has no fly, which will prevent the cosmonauts to continue a ritual initiated by Yuri Gagarin before the first flight of a human in space in 1961.

The first Soviet cosmonaut had been seized with urgency just before flying into space and had urinated on the right rear wheel of the bus taking him to the firing point.

This gesture is repeated by tribute and to bring good luck by each male cosmonaut. Women do not have to follow this tradition but some bring a vial of urine with which they sprinkle the wheel.

The manufacturer, however, told Russian agencies that the design of the suit could be "adapted" to keep this ritual.

The launching of Soyuz rockets in space is the subject of many other rituals, such as the screening of a 1970s Soviet cinema classic broadcast to each crew the day before their departure. On the day of the flight, the astronauts first sign the door of their hotel room, then have to drink with the staff.

By superstition, they are not allowed to witness the erection of the thrower on his firing point. But they do not have to worry: the rocket is blessed by an Orthodox priest according to another tradition instituted in 1993, after the fall of the USSR.

© 2019 AFP