In October 2019, the Viitorul Roman Society had the pleasure and the honor to host two very special guests: Romanian Cosmonaut Dr. Ing. Dumitru Prunariu, and Mr. Prunariu’s wife, Crina Prunariu, former Romanian Ambassador in The Republic of Armenia.  Mr. Prunariu arrived in Los Angeles at the invitation of VRS board member Bogdan Marcu, an invitation extended on behalf of the entire VRS organization as well as on behalf of the entire Romanian community in Los Angeles. Mrs. and Mr. Prunariu were graciously hosted in Los Angeles at the beautiful Pasadena residence of VRS Board Member Mara Chindris.

Upon arrival in Los Angeles, the guests were greeted at LAX by VRS board members Dana Moldovan and Virgil Adumitroaie. In the same evening, a small reception in the honor of the guest was held at Mara Chindris residence.

In the following days, our guests had the pleasure of exploring the Los Angeles area, and enjoy a day visit at the Universal Studios in Hollywood, one of the main Los Angeles attractions. At Universal, Mrs. and Mr. Prunariu have been accompanied by VRS board members Virgil Adumitroaie and Bogdan Marcu, as well as VRS member Nicoleta Simionescu.

On October 12, in association with the Columbia Memorial Space Center the VRS society has organized a unique event, a series of presentations featuring our special guest as well as members of the VRS board who are working in the exciting field of Space Exploration. The event offered an insight into the details of Space Exploration. How does Space feel like? What does one feel when watching the Earth from Space? How do we get to the Moon? How do we explore the Planets and how do we measure and interpret the scientific data telling us what is beneath the surface of the Moon, Jupiter, Jupiter’s moons, the asteroids and comets?

These answers and many more have been provided by the special speakers at the VRS event:

  • Romanian Cosmonaut Dr. Ing. Dumitru Prunariu, our Guest of Honor, visiting from Bucharest.  Dr. Prunariu is the 103rdhuman who flew into space, aboard a Soyuz 40 rocket in 1981, and executing an 8-day mission on the Salyut 6 space laboratory.
  •  Dr. Virgil Adumitroaie, Data Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an expert in planetary environmental modeling, remote sensing and data interpretation, currently working with the Juno Mission team.
  • Dr. Bogdan Marcu, expert in Liquid Propulsion technology, author of designs for the Space X Falcon 9/Merlin engines, the Space Shuttle, and Delta IV rockets.

The event was opened by the President of the VRS society, Adrian Barbu.  In front of an excited audience Adrian introduced our guests, and invited The Romanian Consul General, Mr. Cosmin Dumitrescu to speak on behalf of the Romanian government. In an inspired short speech Mr. Dumitrescu thanked the Romanian scientists for their contribution to the world progress and remarked how Romanian scientific talent can be found in many advanced countries, US in particular.  Following the Romanian Consul General speech, Ben Dickow, the President and Executive Director of the Columbia Memorial Center addressed the audience with a short presentation of the Center’s history, also thanking the VRS community for choosing the Center for the special event of the evening.

Special thanks must be addressed here to Mrs. Georgeta Bostean, a VRS member who facilitated the access to the Columbia Center and the collaboration between the Center and the VRS board.

Among the beautiful artefacts and pictures related to space exploration belonging to the Columbia Center, the VRS society displayed three special graphical works by Jerry W.McDaniel, an artist with a wonderful reputation: one of the posters presented (“The Dawn of the Day” whose original painting is in the permanent US Air Force Art Collection) had been on the background TV screens broadcasting the Moon Landing of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Jerry W. McDaniel also designed the special poster for our special evening event. McDaniel attended the event together with Dr. Ileana Costea, California State University, Northridge professor, Director of I.C. ART Gallery that promotes the artist’s work. Two large prints of the event poster were issued and signed by both Dr. Prunariu and McDaniel; one was offered by the artist as a gift to the cosmonaut, while the other was given by VRS to the Columbia Memorial Center.

The first presentation of the evening was given by VRS board member Bogdan Marcu who presented a short history of the Moon and Mars exploration, associated success and failure statistics explaining the difficulties associated with deep space exploration, besides the many stories of success. Bogdan presented how, 50 years after the Apollo Moon landing, unprecedented developments are now taking place in Space Exploration – in terms of both extraordinary endeavors of research as well as business. New commers China and India have ambitious and well-funded space programs, and the US must respond by accelerating the American exploration program.

Following Bogdan Marcu, Dr. Virgil Adumitroaie introduced the audience to the fascinating process of deciphering the secrets of the universe, using the streams of data sent by the unmanned probes flown by NASA/JPL missions towards the far away planets of our Solar System. Virgil also explained how the advanced, orbit-based star observatories and telescopes discover sister exoplanets which may display conditions of climates close to the Earth climate. Many questions came from the audience proving the strong interest towards the topic.

Finally, we had the pleasure of listening to our Romanian Cosmonaut, Dr. Dumitru Prunariu. With a versed speaker style mixing humor with interesting and specific data, Dr. Prunariu relived for the audience his own journey from the moment he was a military private, serving his mandatory military service at a base near the city of Bacau after graduating from the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest with an MS in Aeronautical Engineering all the way to the Salyut 6 space station, launched aboard a Soyuz rocket together with the Russian Cosmonaut Leonid Popov. We had the chance to see many images from Dr. Prunariu’s 8-day space journey and share the excitement the young cosmonaut felt at the time. We also found out that the return to Earth was not without tense moments when the parachutes of the Soyuz capsule opened with an unprecedented delay. Currently, Dr. Prunariu is one of the founding members of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) which (as of 2015) has over 400 members, from 36 countries, who had flown into outer space. Dr. Prunariu was awarded the Medal for Merits in Space Exploration by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Moscow Kremlin on April 12, 2011. Between 1993 and 2004 he has been the permanent representative of ASE at the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) sessions. Dr. Prunariu ended his presentation speaking about the efforts of the United Nations to establish peace and collaboration between the space faring nations, at a moment when space exploration is at the dawn of a new era. Moreover, Dr. Prunariu’s involvement is significant: since 2010 until 2012 he served as the chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS). Now he is a vice-chair of the UN COPUOS Working Group on “Space Agenda 2030”. In 2012 he was appointed as one of the 15 experts of the Group of Governmental Experts on outer space transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBM), established by the UN General Assembly Resolution 65/68. In 2018 he was appointed as one of the 25 members of the Group of Governmental Experts on Further Practical Measures for the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space, established by the UN General Assembly. Dr. Prunariu was also a member of the task force elaborating a report on Space Security for Europe in the framework of the European Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), issued in 2016. In 2018 Dr. Prunariu was appointed as a co-vice-chair of the Working Group on 2030 Space Agenda within the UN COPUOS.

After the presentation, the audience was invited to enjoy the social part of the evening where many more questions were addressed to the guest presenters over a glass of good wine and delicious food and desert. Dr. Prunariu kindly signed many autographs while answering questions and enjoying a glass of California Cabernet Sauvignon.

Early next morning, our guests left for Houston for a convention of former astronauts and cosmonauts. We are looking forward to having him again among our midst, soon.