Vladimir Remek carried Czechoslovakia’s flag into space and became the first cosmonaut from outside the Soviet Union. The son of a Czechoslovak fighter pilot, Remek was born in 1948 in the southern Bohemian city of Ceske Budejovice near the Austrian border. At the age of six he went on his first flight, in a Fieseler Fi-186 Stork, traveling from his hometown to Bratislava, Slovakia. As he grew, he enjoyed history and adventure stories and also liked to build model airplanes. These interests later helped take him beyond the stratosphere. Remek was active in the “Pioneers,” an eastern bloc version of the Boy Scouts, and later participated in the Czechoslovak Youth Organization.
As a teenager, he won many local and regional awards in 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1,500-meter events as a member of his high school track team in Caslav, eastern Bohemia. After graduation in 1966, he entered Vyssi Letecke Uciliste (a military flying school) in Kosice, near the Ukrainian border, where he first soloed in an Aero L-29 Dolphin jet trainer. In 1969, he went on to Prerov Air Base near Brno, Moravia, for advanced training in the supersonic Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21 fighter. In 1970, as a second lieutenant, he returned to his hometown of Ceske Budejovice to fly the MiG-21 in the 1st Fighter Interceptor Regiment. Two years later, he went to an academy in Russia and studied for 4 years. He returned home in June 1976 and as a captain, served as Deputy Squadron Commander of the 1st Fighter Squadron until he was selected for cosmonaut training.
He trained at Zvezdnei Gorodok (Star City), Russia, for 2 years and then flew as a research pilot on Soyuz 28. Carried into space on 2 March 1978, Remek and fellow cosmonaut Alexei Gubarev, a Russian, rendezvoused and docked with the space station Salyut 6. Following his space flight, Remek lectured, wrote, and participated in debates on space issues until late 1979. He then became Deputy Director of the Flight Research Institute in Prague. In January 1986, Remek returned to flight operations as Deputy Commander of the Flight Division in Cdslav and again flew. In the fall of 1986, he attended the Military Academy of General Staff. Graduating in mid-1988, he became Deputy Commander of the Air Defense Division in Moravia.
Colonel Remek is now Director of the Czech Air Museum at Kbely Air Force Base; he and his staff lovingly care for one of the world’s most unique and valuable aircraft collections, including many Czechoslovak-built fighters and bombers of the 1920s and 1930s. He still enjoys historical literature, but his first love is flying and space science.*