438 Days


Notebook with observations about the longest known human space flight.

Carnet avec observations au sujet du vol habité le plus long. Deux cahiers lignés B5, pochette noire. Manuscrit à l’encre bleue et au crayon. Photocopies de dossiers dentaires.

Alyona Ivasheva
Private Collection
Yuri Korshunov
Journal: 15.2cm W x 21.6cm L x 1.3cm H | Metal cube: 1.3cm W x 1.3cm L x 1.9cm H | Pen: 9.5cm L x 2.2cm DIA
2 B5 lined notebooks, black hard cover. Hand-written in blue ink and pencil. Photocopied dental records.
438 Days Notes 3
438 Days Notes 2
438 Days Notes 1
438 Days Endpapers
438 Days Cover
438 Days Notes 5
438 Days Notes 6
Space pen in box
Space pen out of box
Space pen in box again
Closed box for the space pen
Metal cube
Metal cube 2
Dental records
Dental records paperclipped into notebook
Notes and sketches

First human to endure the longest single space flight from Jan 12 1992 – Mar 8 1993, a total of 419.7 days. Korshunov was rigorously tested both mentally and physically and was selected due to his overwhelmingly high scores on both. He was 51 years old. He volunteered for this mission because he believed “It is possible to preserve your physical and psychological health” during such a flight, and that to be a part of testing “the limits of human tolerance for the isolation and monotony of interplanetary travel” would be a testament to the Russian space team and all his predecessors.

Minor shifts in mood and memory occurred in the first three weeks of the space flight, and in the first couple of weeks after his return to Earth. Korshunov retired shortly after landing, in August 1995. He was surpassed as world-record holder in 1995 by Valeriy Polyakov at 438.7 days.

When asked about Alyona Ivasheva, he laughs and says “Her name means ‘torch’ – what do you expect from a woman like that?” He leads a private life with his wife, and two sons nearby.

Description/physicality of the document:

2 B5 lined notebooks, black hard cover. Hand-written in blue ink. The thin paper is dimpled from pressure of the writing arm, sweat. Indication of some spills. Covers worn on the spine. Roughly 150 pages each volume, front and back covered in text.

The first notebook dates roughly from Feb 1994 – Feb 1995, and is filled with calculations, tests, routines and mood or behavioural changes. The second notebook shifts into diary-like paragraphs with little indication of when the notes were written. On the inside cover of both, the initials YK are written in thin marker. Initials are used throughout both notebooks, so no real names can be traced back to the text.

At times, the writing is clear and organized, easy to read. To flip through is like reading any diary, with personal notes and information not easily decoded. The second volume shows some change, with a heavier hand and a rushed note-taking. Inability to make out certain words, the sentences tend to meander and be non-sensical in places. It’s thought the numbers indicate the days after Korshanov’s return to Earth. It is thought that English is used rather than Russian because the author believed it was a protection from getting found out. This kind of personal record-keeping was strictly forbidden by any member of the space team, and, if found, the owner would be severely punished.

Biographical details of the “real” author behind the fake; the circumstances that might have led the author of the fake to produce the object or document; the circumstances surrounding publication: Alyona Ivasheva, 27th female astronaut of the world, fervent admirer of Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space. On April 12th, 1993 Ivasheva’s application to join the cosmonaut team was denied, which would have made her the 4th Russian female astronaut in space. Instead, the position was filled by Yuri Korshunov, who would endure the longest single human space flight in low Earth orbit.

Colleague and friend of Korshunov, Alonya was jealous, furious, and slightly crazed by the simple truth that she would never step foot on a spacecraft in her career. During his 438 day mission, Korshunov was tested rigorously for any mood shifts, memory loss or impact on the body. Ivasheva monitored the testing, and kept in close contact with Korshunov during his flight, his return to Earth, and well into his retirement.

As resentment built over the 438 days Korshunov was in space, Ivasheva began keeping a personal notebook of her communications with Korshunov, which she filled with minor hints at Korshunov’s deteriorating psychological well-being, as well as personal anecdotes he had told her in person before his flight. Upon returning to Earth, Ivasheva presumed her role as confidant to Korshunov, and he trusted her. She kept copious notes of everything he said, but also added fictions and half-truths here and there as well.

At first, it was anger that drove her note-keeping, but when she realized Korshunov was actually experiencing difficulty after having spent so much time in space, she thought of the notebook as a way to let the world know these space missions were dangerous and that no human body should endure microgravity long enough to make a trip to Mars and back. She wrote in English, and shifted into the voice of Korshunov in the pages after his return to Earth. It reads as a kind of dream diary, with surreal and careless entries Ivasheva was sure people would read as Korshunov’s loss of grip on reality.

Ivasheva resigned from the Russian space program in 1996. She never published the notebooks. Scholars are not quite sure how both volumes made it out of her home, and Ivasheva refuses comment. They were able, however, to link the authorship to her given the first set of notes written in her own voice in the same style of notebook while Korshunov was in space.


excerpt from 438 Days


Please shackle my mind to the nearest cat-scratching post. I deserve it. If it weren’t for my lungs sucking in this air, there would be more air.



Like licking a battery! Nothing’s to scale. My wife’s tits are like pendulums of death ticking pink and glorious. Her cunt is like the station’s sleeping bay. I beg her to trap me there. The neighbors refuse complaint. Where do geraniums even come from?



Memory search requirements continue. A new test: three symbols meant to signify short-term memory recall. I get one wrong. I get one wrong.

Mother told me when I breast-fed I would reach up to rub her earlobe like a worry-stone.

I would reach for her earlobe when she held me before bed. A velvety sweet peach fantasy. In front of the TV or at storytime at school I would stretch over without realizing and grab my brother’s lobe and rub and rub until my mother or the teacher smacked my hand away.

At the supermarket today searching for pickled apples to go with my wife’ssyrniki. I’m looking for tins when they’ve been packaging them in jars for 10 years. The woman in front of me in line drops a magazine, cheap ice-cream, a bag of cotton balls onto the belt. She’s going to get home and shove those downy buds between her toes and it makes me want to retch.

Rotation is to Earth as spinning is to ________.


My grandfather’s hand-carved rabbit in one hand, a porcelain horse in the other. My brother is making them fuck, the giant rabbit humps the miniature horse until the tail breaks off. My mother, my poor mother. My brother takes off and I take the tail and horse out to my father’s workshop and use wood glue to repair it. I don’t think she ever noticed or didn’t say if she did.

Alter tree to mute in four moves.


Like Day 15 in a helium balloon packed with your whole family floating over desert: the pressure builds to an incredible peak.


The base of the tower is obscured by fog so the top of it just floats there like a satellite.

When I disembarked I walked from the capsule to a chair about 10 paces away. This was considered a real feat. If they want to measure truth values, how about this: I could have stayed a million more days and a million more days were never possible. Even the blue sugar bowl here at my elbow laughs and laughs.