I have written of my famous inventor cousin Louis Brennan, whose life was commemorated in a ceremony in London in 2014. Louis’ leaf sprouted from my mother’s tree. My father’s family had their own legendary leaf—cosmonaut Gherman Titov.
Among his accomplishments were that he was the youngest person to have flown in space, traveling there just one month prior to his twenty-sixth birthday in 1961. His flight last a whopping twenty-four hours, which was much longer than his Russian predecessor, whose time in space lasted 108 minutes. He was also the first space photographer, the first to have slept in space, and the first to vomit in space. (Now that is impressive!)
When my father traveled to Russia with my sister, he spoke to a cousin who confirmed that Mr. Titov was related, and that cousin claimed that Gherman mentioned in a press interview that he did have relatives “abroad.” He just never mentioned the specifics.
I do know that my father’s grandmother was named Martha Titovna, but Russian genealogy records are quite pitiful, so I have been unable to verify this. Do I doubt this claim? My answer is a resounding “no,” because I have been unable to disprove a single one of my father’s seemingly crazy stories.
So I tell my children that we have a Russian astronaut in the family, and I am sticking by my story until I have reason to believe otherwise.