As far as space heroes of the Soviet Union go, Valery Ryumin is among the most prolific. An experienced cosmonaut throughout the Cold War, including two long duration stays aboard the early generation Salyut-6 space station almost twenty years before the International Space Station came online. Once the Soviet Union fell, Russia’s space program, Roscosmos, needed their best and most capable cosmonauts to represent their program in an exchange with NASA — and it was Ryumin they chose to join the crew of America’s space shuttle Discovery on a flight to Russia’s Mir space station in 1998.

Twice awarded the honor of being named “Hero of the Soviet Union,” the 79-year-old Ryumin still enjoys a great deal of influence when it comes to Russia’s space endeavors. While Russia may not have gone to the moon, Ryumin’s public statements about his nation’s space program could be compared to a famous astronaut from the Apollo missions choosing to speak about NASA. Folks tend to pay attention when heroes take the podium.

Ryumin has even been commemorated on a stamp. (WikiMedia Commons)

Perhaps that’s why it’s so surprising that Ryumin took an opportunity in a recent interview with Russian state-owned to take his former space program behind the wood shed. The former cosmonaut first took on the program’s leadership, criticizing the new head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin. Rogozin isn’t just the head of the nation’s space program, however, he’s also Russia’s former Deputy Prime Minister.

“He’s not a space specialist but a journalist,” Ryumin said of Rogozin, who graduated from college with a degree in journalism. Ryumin added that the Roscosmos head “may be talented and a pretty good organizer, but in order to survive in this business, you need to know the history and have real experience. It takes a lot of time.”