Betrothed In Space

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko before the start of their training session at a mock-up of a Soyuz TMA space craft at Star City, just outside Moscow, Thursday, April 17, 2003.
The bride will be in Houston, the groom will be in orbit.

Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko is ignoring the wishes of Russian officials and going ahead with plans to get married while on the International Space Station.

Malenchenko, soaring hundreds of miles above the Earth, plans next month to marry Ekaterina Dmitriev, who will remain firmly on the ground.

Malenchenko promised he'd postpone his marriage until his return in October, but he's changed his mind.

Russian officials say the wedding will take place Sunday. Malenchenko quietly arranged to have his tailcoat and wedding ring flown to him aboard a Progress cargo ship in June.

His insistence on getting married has angered his boss, who reportedly has said a "cosmonaut mustn't behave like a movie star."

During the ceremony, Malenchenko will be represented in Houston by a lawyer. Texas allows marriages where one party is absent.

Officials say it will be the first-ever marriage from space.

"This certainly is a first time. People have had birthdays. They have been there when their kids were born, but never this," said Jim Oberg, a space expert and author.

"This shows you that long-distance relationships do work," Dmitriev told the Houston Chronicle shortly after receiving the license.

She left Russia for the United States with her parents when she was 3 and lives in Houston. The two met at a social gathering five years ago and began dating in 2002.

Malenchenko, 41, returned to Russia to train for his upcoming space mission, but the two continued their relationship via telephone. The cosmonaut proposed in December.

Because Malenchenko was preparing for an upcoming space shuttle mission and there was no time to plan a wedding, they decided to get married while he was still in space.