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Cosmonauts paid less than McDonald's employees

Soyuz

The breakup of the Soviet Union had many unintended consequences. The fabled Russian space program has been one of the most high profile victims of the nation's shift to capitalism. Simon Saradzhyan at Space.com recently wrote, "A career as a cosmonaut—once the dream job of a lifetime for millions in this country—is increasingly less attractive because it is no longer the ticket to international fame or a fortune. As a result, the pool of qualified candidates for positions in Russia’s cosmonaut corps is shrinking."

There are currently 37 Cosmonauts on active duty in Russia and each is paid less than 20,448 Rubles (US $775) per month, plus flight bonuses. The Cosmonaut program is still popular with military pilots because it offers a higher salary, but many others opt for more lucrative careers in the private sector.

There is one benefit of the reduced competition to become a Cosmonaut. In the past, qualified Cosmonauts sometimes retired without ever flying in Space. The reduced size of the modern space program means that there's a much greater likelihood that participants will get to travel to the ISS, although the current wait time is 10 to 15 years. And you have to admit that riding a rocket into orbit beats flipping even the best of burgers.

Cosmonaut Careers: Russian Interest in Homegrown Spaceflyers Flags

Related:
Buran: The first Russian shuttle to reach space
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