This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Tamayo and the second or maternal family name is Méndez.
Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez
Intercosmos Research Cosmonaut
Status Retired
Born 29 January 1942 (age 74)
Rank Brigadier General
Time in space
7d 20h 43m
Selection 1978 Intercosmos Group
Missions Soyuz 38
Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez (born January 29, 1942) was the first Latin American and the first person of African ancestry in space; he was proclaimed at the time as the first black cosmonaut. As a member of the crew of Soyuz 38, he became the first Cuban citizen and the first person from a country in the Western Hemisphere other than the United States to travel into earth orbit.
1 Early life and military career
2 Intercosmos program
3 Personal life
Early life and military career
Born in Guantánamo, Tamayo graduated from the Cuban Air Force Academy and became a pilot in the Cuban Air Force.
Arnaldo Tamayo's space suit, on display at Museo de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba
Tamayo was selected as part of the Soviet Union's seventh Intercosmos program on March 1, 1978. His backup in the Intercosmos program was fellow Cuban José López Falcón.
Tamayo, along with Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko, was launched into space aboard Soyuz 38 from Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 18, 1980, at 19:11 UTC. After docking with Salyut 6, Tamayo and Romanenko conducted experiments in an attempt to find what caused space adaptation syndrome (SAS), and perhaps even find a cure, and on the crystallisation of sucrose in microgravity, for the benefit of Cuba's sugar industry. The SAS experiment involved wearing special adjustable shoes for six hours every day that placed a load on the arch of the foot. After 124 orbits of the Earth (lasting 7 days, 20 hours and 43 minutes), Tamayo and Romanenko landed 180 km (110 mi) from Dzhezkazgan. The landing was risky, as it was during the night.
Following his time in the Intercosmos program, Tamayo was made Director of the Military Patriotic Educational Society known as Sociedad de Educación Patriótico-Militar "SEPMI". After his promotion to brigadier general, he became Director of International Affairs in the Cuban armed forces.
Since 1980, he has been a Deputy in the Cuban National Assembly, representing his home region of Guantánamo Province.
He has been honored by the Cuban Government for being the first Cuban, the first Caribbean, and the first Latin American to go into orbit. He was awarded the titles of Hero of the Republic of Cuba and the Order of the Bay of Pigs. He also is a recipient of the Hero of the Soviet Union award.
Tamayo is married and has two daughters and a son.
His space suit is preserved at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana.