Category Salyut – The First Space Station

Drawing away from the station


In their first fortnight on board the Salyut station the cosmonauts had performed a large amount of scientific work and accumulated results to be returned to Earth for analysis by specialists. As the mission drew to a conclusion, the crew were in high spirits.

Day 16, Monday, 21 June

Work resumed with the Orion astrophysical observatory, this time with stars in the constellation of Serpens. Volkov was in charge of navigation. He spent a lot of time ‘sitting’ by a porthole on the station’s floor, ‘hunting’ for landmarks on the Earth and in the sky. Once Volkov had selected a landmark, Dobrovolskiy would orient and stabilise the station to enable this to be viewed. During the next orbit, Patsayev controlled the two telescopes of the Orion system, one on the exterior of the transfer compartment and the other affixed to a porthole inside it, to simultaneously record spectrograms of a single star in different sections of the ultraviolet spectrum.[89] The cosmonauts also continued measurements of gamma rays, the electrically charged nuclei in cosmic rays, and the intensity of free electrons in the orbital environment. At 2.21 p. m. Patsayev, who had started his career in meteorology, sent a greeting on behalf of the Salyut crew to the attendees of the National Meteorological Congress in Leningrad.

From Patsayev’s notebook:

21 June. The Moon looks the same as when viewed from Earth. Sometimes a round rainbow ‘spot’, or halo, is visible through a porthole on the opposite side to the Sun.

The boundaries of clouds can be determined by their shadows. Thicker

clouds are moving away in regular order, and cloud belts on the night side are visible in moonlight. …

The can openers are inadequate, often creating shards while opening the can. The seal of the rubbish bags is unsuitable, letting the stench out. …

It is essential to have a work site for performing repairs, a workbench with instruments. . . .

The station lights are inadequate. The inscriptions on the push buttons for switching on the food heater and the vacuum cleaner are barely visible. It is too dark at the work sites, especially at No. 3 [which was located adjacent to the large conical module housing the main scientific equipment].


Until her death in 2002, Vera Patsayeva collected information on the worst tragedy in the Soviet manned space programme – which claimed the life of her husband. An expert in remotely sensing the Earth from space, she worked at the TsNIIMash, which was located alongside the TsKBEM. She was close to many designers and specialists from the TsKBEM, including Yeliseyev and Raushenbakh, and had access to secret information on the mission. Courtesy of her daughter Svetlana, we can now publish for the first time a chapter from the notes of Vera Patsayeva entitled ‘Was there a chance for survival?’

I recall that several days before the end of the flight of the Soyuz 11 crew, I queried well-known cosmonaut K. P. Feoktistov: is it possible that there will be trouble during the landing? I always thought that on a space mission the most dangerous operations are at its start and its end. If anything happens to the hatch in orbit decompression will be instantaneous, and death inevitable for the crew in the cabin without pressures suits.

Konstantin Petrovich Feoktistov replied that the cabin is reliably protected from decompression. If the hatch is defective, the automated systems would not permit the ship to begin de-orbit. The ventilation system of the cabin can be opened to the environment automatically only during landing, when the external atmospheric pressure reaches a specific value. The cosmonauts can also open and close the shutters of the valves manually, but in space they are automatically closed. So he said there was no reason to worry. The Soyuz spacecraft had been repeatedly tested in landings and had proved itself to be reliable. Furthermore, he said that the reliability of the descent module made it unnecessary for a crew to wear pressure suits.

For a long time after the loss of my husband, I was unable to ask about the causes of the tragedy. I thought the official version of a random loss of cabin pressure explained everything.

But 15 years later I read an article by Vasiliy Pavlovich Mishin in which he said the Soyuz 11 crew had missed a chance to save themselves. They did not close the shutter of the ventilation system in time. Apparently they were unaware of how to act in this emergency. All they needed to have done was to close by hand the ventilation duct through which air was leaking to space. He laid the entire blame for the tragic outcome on the crew. In his opinion, the designers of the spacecraft and the mission planners were not at fault. The crew was lost due to their ignorance of a vitally important system of the ship, and because they were confused.

For me, it was very painful and offensive to read what the Chief Designer wrote about the tragedy. It is painful because he says that the cosmonauts had a chance to save themselves but failed to take it. And it is offensive to the cosmonauts, who are spoken of as if they are guilty for their own loss, and who have no opportunity to defend themselves.

So did they not know how to act? Or did they know, attempted to act, and were unsuccessful? For sure they realised what was happening, because they attempted to unfasten their seat belts in order to reach the source of the air leak. How much time did they have to resolve this? To achieve this was not an easy task in the active phase of the descent, when the dynamic loads pressed them into their seats. Even though the valve that was leaking air to space could be closed by hand, without pressure suits the time available to do so was not great. True, the Chief Designer asserts that it was sufficiently simply to raise a hand. . . . He adds that Viktor Patsayev perished attempting to turn the valve manually, but there was insufficient time for this. However, this proves that the cosmonauts knew the cause of the emergency.

What was the chance of the cosmonauts saving themselves? … I decided to find out. Firstly I wanted to understand in more detail what happened in the cabin on the night of 29/30 June 1971 when the de-orbit procedure began. And, in particular, I wanted to know whether the Chief Designer was correct in asserting that the tragedy could have been averted if the cosmonauts were better prepared or had not become confused. . . . On the other hand, was it an inevitable accident? A random event that can strike anyone, irrespective of his experience or preparedness? Or was it a question of fate? Perhaps there was some sort of a prior warning which the cosmonauts did not know how to recognise in preparing for the flight? Or was it the case that there were flaws in the making of the spacecraft of which the Chief Designer did not wish to talk? The cosmonauts lacked the suits that could have protected them in the event of the cabin losing pressure. Was this not an error in the design of the spacecraft?

What was the reason for the crew’s loss – their own errors, or the errors of the designers? What was to blame – confusion during the emergency, or the malfunction of a system that should not have failed in that manner?

So I began to question the specialists. I started with the designers because it was the Chief Designer who had put the blame on the cosmonauts. It was very complex to reach Konstantin Feoktistov by telephone and set a meeting to discuss the reason for the tragedy, but he readily accepted. Contrary to my expectation, he was very affable and agreed to answer my questions. Soon I felt free and comfortable with him. After asking permission to switch on my tape recorder, I asked what I considered to be the most important question: During the emergency, was there any realistic possibility of the cosmonauts avoiding catastrophe.

“They must, and they could! They had 30 seconds for that. It is sufficient to unfasten the seat belts and reach up to the valve of the ventilation system in order to close it by hand.’’

He explained to me how the valve was designed, and why its operation on this occasion caused the decompression of the descent module. It was to open automatically in the Earth’s atmosphere, but the unforeseen had occurred. It was ‘unseated’ at the time that the descent module separated. Apparently, there was a manufacturing defect.[111]

Feoktistov does not accept even the slightest possibility that the designers were responsible for the loss of the crew. The decision not to use pressure suits was correct, he thinks, since it facilitated three couches rather than two. Regarding safety, it had to be ensured by the control and manual blocking of the automation using the flight engineer’s command panel. Moreover, from the time of Voskhod, when cosmonauts first flew in space without pressure suits, the reliability of the descent module had proven itself by many flights.

Feoktistov also explained: ‘‘I place the moral risk above the physical risk. A cosmonaut always risks his life on a mission, because it is not possible to predict all possibilities.’’

Returning to my question, he repeats: ‘‘They wasted time! It was necessary to act immediately. The flight engineer was obliged to know how to act. He had 30 seconds available.’’

So the cosmonauts had 30 seconds, and a designer said that was sufficient to access the valve’s manually operated shutter and close this to halt the leak of air from the cabin.

The fact is that the ventilation system has two openings on opposite sides of the descent module. These are pyrotechnic valves.[112] They remain closed in space, and open automatically during the descent through the atmosphere. In addition to the pyrotechnic valves, each opening has a manual shutoff and a fan. One fan directs air into the cabin and the second draws it off. In orbit, when the modules of the ship are connected, both openings are protected by the frame of the orbital module. The operation of either of the pyrotechnic valves opens a passage to space which is about two centimetres in diameter. After midnight on 30 June, when the orbital module was jettisoned, one of the valves inadvertently opened.

The Chief Designer says that the cosmonauts heard the air whistling, and that Patsayev unfastened and reached up to halt the leak, but did not succeed. On the other hand, he said that the tragedy could have been avoided if only the crew had recalled in time the existence of the manually operated shutter. As noted, prior to initiating the descent the crew was to have confirmed that the manually operated shutters in the valves were set according to the flight instruction. Mishin states that it is unknown whether the cosmonauts did not know that they were to do this, or whether they simply forgot to do it.[113]

Did the cosmonauts forget, or did they not know? In any case, there is the flight instruction in which all of the actions of the crew prior to de-orbit are specified in detail. In addition, there is the Control Group in mission control. It would have ensured that the crew followed the flight instruction without missing out any steps.

In the log book of Soyuz 11, which is stored in NPO Energiya, is a page that lists the actions prior to the descent. In the instruction, it states that both at the cosmodrome prior to launch and before de-orbit the crew must verify the settings of the manually operated shutters in the valves of the ventilation system.

The records of the radio communications between the cosmonauts and the operators of the ground-based services at the cosmodrome confirm that they made this test prior to launch.

Arkadiy Ilyich Ostashev, the tester at the ground-based complex, said that in checking the Soyuz 11 spacecraft at the TsKBEM and in preparations at Baykonur a discrepancy was noted between the onboard documentation and that of the manufacturer about the ventilation valves. According to Ostashev, the operator instructed that the settings of the manual shutters of the valves be altered. As a result, the inscription ‘Closed’ meant that the shutter was open!

When the automatic shutter on a valve became unseated, a decompression was therefore inevitable.

In an attempt to explain why and how this error occurred in the onboard documentation, I turned to Viktor Petrovich Varshavskiy, who was our great authority for onboard documentation. During the flight of the Salyut station, he was the leader of the group that made the instructions for the cosmonauts, and oversaw their operation in orbit.

“When the first orbital station was launched, the mission control centre was not as it is today. There was no computer to process flight information. Communication with the cosmonauts was undertaken from Yevpatoriya. We were on duty 24 hours per day. Revisions into the instruction and the flight programme were made daily. Often the cosmonauts grew angry because we made so many changes and because sometimes these were inconsistent with the state of apparatus. In terms of organisation, at that time we weren’t ready to the operate such a station. The first design imperfections were revealed by Soyuz 10, when a problem in its docking mechanism prevented the docking with the station. That crew was obliged to return to Earth. We were allowed just a month to make the modifications to the docking system. Soyuz 11 was urgently transported to the cosmodrome to meet a schedule for launching to the station. There was very little time to draw up the new instruction and to compare it with the manufacturer’s documentation for that particular vehicle. That is how the divergence arose. And unfortunately when the cosmonauts began their preparations for the de-orbit manoeuvre, our ‘controllers’ forgot to remind them of the corrections to the onboard instruction.’’

At the moment of separating the modules after the de-orbit manoeuvre, the shock from the explosive bolts unseated the ball of the automated part of the valve above Dobrovolskiy’s couch, allowing air to escape. In addition to the whistle of the air, the signal horn warned of a decompression. Immediately, a thick fog was formed in the cabin. The crew had only seconds to analyse the situation, and act. It was necessary to unfasten the seatbelts, stand up and stop the leak. Unbeknownst to the crew, however, in the case of the valve above Patsayev ‘Open’ meant closed, and for the valve above Dobrovolskiy ‘Closed’ meant the automated shutter was open. They had to act on the indications. However, the barographic data shows that the pressure fell so rapidly that after 13 seconds they were rendered ineffective.

Thirteen seconds to eternity. Was this sufficient? If the situation is regular (as cosmonauts say) then it is a lot. But it is far less if the situation is out of control – as it was to men exposed to the vacuum of space without pressure suits.

Gennadiy Fyodorovich Isayev, who for many years observed and analysed the actions of cosmonauts in space, answered my question very emotionally.

‘‘It is not possible to raise the question in that way! What is enough time, and what is insufficient time? There were only a few seconds available! This was, as we say, a non-standard situation. There was no standard solution. A cosmonaut performs his work in accordance with instruction, and such work

is called regular. He cannot train for uncertainty. In a non-standard situation time is required to evaluate the situation and devise a solution. This time can be completely different to the one calculated by training instructors on Earth. The tragedy of Soyuz 11 clearly shows that there were flaws in the project. The cosmonauts could not control the automation in the most important system protecting their lives, so they could not immediately counter the malfunction. Starting with the first Voskhod flight, the spacecraft designers deprived the cosmonauts of recovery facilities in the case of a cabin decompression. It is the inevitable result of the generally inadequate relationship of society to the man. It is the philosophy of the totalitarian system in which we lived.”

In 1971 Skella Aleksandrovna Bugrova worked for the Control Group in Yevpatoriya. She recalls that the ‘sliding’ circadian rhythm imposed on the first Salyut crew had a serious effect on their health and relationships with the people on Earth. With added fatigue and the influence of weightlessness, they became spiritually and physically overloaded. ‘‘And we on Earth could not manage to analyse the flight information. As a result, we were slow to respond to the questions and observations of the crew, which irritated them. In our memories, even today, are the last conversations with them before the descent. If we had not rushed the crew to prepare for the descent, if only the flight director had had the courage to postpone the undocking from Salyut in order to fully investigate the absence of the signal from the hatch, and then reviewed once again the status of the life support system, then maybe the tragedy would have been avoided.’’


Following the loss of the DOS 3 station in May 1973 Leonov and Kubasov were reassigned to the Apollo-Soyuz programme. They lifted off in Soyuz 19 on 15 July 1975. The Apollo carried a special airlock on its nose and was the active partner in the docking. In the two days during which the two spacecraft were linked the crews visited each other several times. Half an hour after separation, the Soyuz played the

After almost 10 years of continuous training for circumlunar, lunar landing and space station missions, Aleksey Leonov (foreground) finally returned to space in July 1975 with flight engineer Valeriy Kubasov, for the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

As one of the chiefs at the TsPK, Leonov was responsible for selecting and training cosmonauts. On the left he takes the exams from Popov and Lebedyev in 1980 (for the Salyut 6 programme), and on the right from Manarov, Titov and Levchenko in 1987 (for the Mir programme).

active role and docked again. Three hours later they undocked and took spectacular photographs of one another prior to moving clear. Leonov and Kubasov returned to Earth on 21 July. As had been the case for the launch and docking, the landing was also broadcast ‘live’ on TV – marking a new degree of openness in the Soviet space programme. For this mission Leonov was awarded a second Gold Star of a Hero of the Soviet Union and was promoted to Major-General.

In March 1976 he was appointed commander of the cosmonauts at the TsPK. In March 1981 he was awarded a master’s degree by the N. A. Zhukovskiy Air Force Engineering Academy. In January 1982 he was made first deputy to the chief of the TsPK, General Beregovoy. This marked the end of his 22-year cosmonaut career. In 1985 Beregovoy retired. Shatalov proposed Leonov as his successor, but Glushko at NPO Energiya objected so Leonov continued to run the training of the cosmonauts, their exams, and the selection of the crews. He played a key role in the preparations for the mission of Soyuz T-13 which brought the crippled Salyut 7 back to life in 1985. Leonov was retired in September 1991 at the age of 57. He got a letter from the Commander in Chief of the Air Force in which, together with an expression of thanks, he was praised as a ‘‘founder of the school for cosmonaut training’’ – which was not far from the truth, given that since the death of Gagarin in 1968 he had not only trained space flight candidates but had also prepared many of the crews.

Having left the TsPK, Leonov was made president of the Alfa-Capital Investment Fund, and also of the companies Bering-Vostok and Vostok-Capital. In July 1996 his family was struck a terrible blow when his elder daughter Victoria Alekseyevna died during a medical operation at the age of 35. In 1997 he became vice-president of the Alfa-Bank, and in December 2005 also became a consultant to the Sladko confectionery company. Despite his age, he is in excellent health and is very active in the Association of Space Flight Participants, often attending the meetings which deal with key events in the history of cosmonautics. He was one of the initiators of the project to make a movie about the life of Sergey Korolev, which was released in January 2007 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of this giant of the Soviet space programme. In 2005 Leonov became president of the Russian-Serbian

Society of Friendship. A 38-km-diameter crater on the Moon has been named after him. Having previously co-authored two books, in 2004 he co-authored Two Sides of the Moon with the American astronaut David R. Scott, in which they interleave their parallel stories in the rival space programmes as a unique dual autobiography. Although he travels a lot, Leonov frequently indulges his old passion by painting cosmic themes. So far, eight albums of paintings have been published with Leonov as author or co-author.


Day 17, Tuesday, 22 June

When Salyut entered the communication zone of the ground stations Dobrovolskiy was on duty, continuing studies of the physical properties of the atmosphere using a manual spectrograph. For this work he observed the horizon immediately before the Sun rose above the horizon, continuing until it had risen, and then he repeated the sequence in reverse at sunset. At the same time Patsayev measured the polarisation of the sunlight reflected by the Earth surface. Volkov and Dobrovolskiy performed meteorological observations, in particular of a cyclone near Hawaii. Meanwhile the gamma-ray measurements continued.

2.01 a. m.

Dobrovolskiy: “We saw a big cyclone at 168 degrees longitude and 30 degrees latitude, and photographed it.”

A few hours later, they monitored the development of a cyclone near the eastern coast of Australia.

6.41 a. m.

Volkov: “Zarya, I am reporting. At 6.36 hours we observed and photographed a cyclone at 125 degrees longitude, near Australia.”

Then the cosmonauts made another telecast.

Television Report:

Zarya-25: “Today I ask you to tell us about your biological experiments related to the effects of weightlessness on the growth and development of higher-order plants. Can you start your report?”

Dobrovolskiy: “Zarya, this is Yantar 1.1 will ask Yantar 2 to swim over to one of the containers of scientific apparatus, and he will show you the objects we study.” Zarya-25: “We see you, excellent.”

Volkov: “Comrades, we continue the introduction to our station and its extensive programme of scientific work. In the time available, we will explain the complexity

A cyclone seen from Salyut.

of the biological investigations that we are performing. I will now show you the special section where our mignonettes are situated – nine plants.[90] However, for that I have to swim.”

Zarya-25: “Go ahead, we will observe you.”

Dobrovolskiy: “I would like to show you the special section with the container for the plants. The name of this container is Oazis.”

Zarya-25: “We can see it excellently on the TV screen.”

Dobrovolskiy: “This container holds nine bags, each with the seeds of different plants brought from Earth.”

Zarya-25: “Which ones?”

Dobrovolskiy: “It is difficult to tell exactly. I am reluctant to move them, because they have not yet grown sufficiently to be recognisable.”

Zarya-25: “Are they growing?”

Dobrovolskiy: “Here are the sprouts of the plants. You should be able to see them. The first one appeared just two days after the start of operations using this container. The second sprout, this one, is actually higher than the first, and even has four little leaves. Can you see? Next, the sprouts in bags No. 2 and No. 1 appeared.” The commentator asked how they tended the plants.

Dobrovolskiy: “We continuously observe the plants. It is a real pleasure to watch how they grow. Several times per day, we look into our ‘green corner’. The plants are developing in normal conditions. We water them twice each day using a special solution. They are illuminated by three lamps. Beside the Oazis is another unit with seeds of other plants, as well as water bacterium, flies and chlorella.’’

Zarya-25: ‘‘Thank you very much. We would like to continue this discussion, but your station is leaving the communication zone. We will take our leave of you, and wish you a successful flight. All the best.’’

In the unit adjacent to the Oazis, shown by Dobrovolskiy, were tadpole embryos. The fertilised spawn was brought to the station by Soyuz 11. The embryos had been put into storage on 10 June, after several days of development, so that they could be studied on Earth for any deviations from normal development.

From Dobrovolskiy’s notebook:

22 June. Today Viktor has decided to sleep in the orbital module. Previously, he was sleeping in the same place as Vadim.

All the time we are busy with work: changing the water tanks, activating scientific apparatus and adjusting it, taking pictures, controlling the station’s systems, making the day’s TV programme, communicating, etc. Vadim relaxes by reading Pushkin or Lermontov. Viktor uses the Era a lot,[91] working either with the cassettes or the cine or photographic cameras. . . .

From Academician Sergey Korolev, the crewmembers from Odessa have forwarded me greetings in lyrics. . . .

From the perspective of its construction technique, the station reminds me of home. Although it has four ‘rooms’ – the descent and orbital modules of the ship and the transfer and the working compartments of the station – here everything is optimal for work and rest. We have the engineers, technicians and workers to thank for this. However, people usually think of home as a place to relax after returning from work. Here, it is impossible. On the Earth, a home is where you are surrounded by relatives and friends. Here there are only the three of us. And it cannot match the air, the sea, the Russian fields, the snow or the wind – everything that our minds associate with ‘home’. …

Watching the Earth, you can see the direction of the station’s flight, but on rapidly moving away often you cannot.[92] We try to wear the ‘penguin’ load suits all the time – we even sleep in them, although at first that was not so pleasant. … We often work with the vacuum cleaner.

Meanwhile, at the TsUP the Landing Commission met and then recommended to the State Commission that Soyuz 11 should return on 30 June, making the landing on the third orbit after undocking from Salyut. The recovery zone had to a generally flat unpopulated region without major rivers, lakes or forests. They selected an area of the steppe some 150-200 km southwest of Karaganda in Kazakhstan.

Day 18, Wednesday, 23 June

With the end of the mission imminent, Adamik Burnazyan, the Deputy Minister of Public Health, called the ‘stars’ of aerospace medicine, including Oleg Gazenko and Abram Genin, to the TsUP. On 23 June they expressed their confidence that by the use of the treadmill and elastic expanders for exercise, wearing the ‘penguin’ suits to condition their muscles and bones, using the Veter lower-body negative-pressure unit to sustain their cardiovascular capacity and routine monitoring by the Polynom apparatus, the Salyut crew would be in much better shape on their return than were the Soyuz 9 cosmonauts. But Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev had not exercised as much as intended. Although it was evident from an analysis of the medical data and discussions with the crew that they were tired, tense, and lacked concentration, the physicians attributed this to poor organisation of the flight, an overly ambitious work programme, and the unfamiliar daily rhythm of the operational schedule of the station, which was shorter than the 24-hour norm. The Air Force felt that the crew would be able to finish the flight as planned, but would have difficulty readapting to gravity. Kamanin suggested that Volkov would have the greatest difficulty because he had exercised less often, was drinking insufficient water, had refused to eat meat, had often complained about problems with the physical training equipment, and had shown the greatest tendency to make mistakes. This was rebutted by the doctors of the Ministry of Public Health, who said that Volkov ought to readapt more rapidly because of the three men he was the keenest sportsman and because he had flown in space previously. It was true that his first flight in October 1969 had lasted just five days and that on his return he had initially felt faint, but after sitting for several minutes and drinking some water he had been able to stand. In addition, the doctors pointed out, Volkov was the most active member of the Salyut crew, continuously ‘swimming’ back and forth within the station. In fact, they were sure that even although he had not exercised as much, Volkov was the strongest of the trio.

Volkov was on duty at the start of 23 June. Six hours later, Dobrovolskiy joined him and began a very busy working day. Then at about 8 a. m., before Volkov went to sleep, Patsayev awakened and joined Dobrovolskiy.

The final phase of the mission. Patsayev in the transfer compartment (top left), and with Dobrovolskiy (top right). Volkov exercises on the treadmill (bottom left), and Dobrovolskiy (bottom right) in between the housing for the scientific equipment (to his rear) and a wall panel.

From Volkov’s diary:

23 June. I didn’t take my leisure time. Instead, I could not resist spending it photographing Earth. I began by recording the mountains of Europe covered with fantastic patterns of snow (Mont Blanc) and the Persian Gulf. It was simply unbelievable work! How could I turn away and rest? Above all, there was minimal cloud cover.

Dobrovolskiy tested the optical characteristics of the station’s wide-angle visor by checking the diffusion levels of its various different projection screens. In addition, supported by Volkov’s navigation measurements, he experimented with the 3-axis orientation of the station. During these tests, Patsayev studied how the gases of the thrusters affected the optical coating of the portholes. They continued to monitor and photograph the Earth, in particular regions in central Kazakhstan and the Pamir Mountains. Starting at 5.48 p. m., in concert with a meteorological satellite, Volkov photographed a cyclone in the Indian Ocean at a longitude of 60 degrees east and a latitude of 45 degrees south. The working day was finished by a medical inspection, and at 9.40 a. m. the station exited the communication zone of the ground tracking stations.

Day 19, Thursday, 24 June

Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev successfully performed one of the most important tasks of the military programme. This involved using the Svinetz apparatus to observe the night launch of two solid-propellant ballistic missiles, one from a silo at Baykonur and the second from a mobile launcher. In addition, the cosmonauts continued to test Salyut in different regimes of manual and automatic orientation, with different angular rates. They also resumed astrophysical observations and took pictures of the Earth for the purposes of geology, geodesy and cartography.

3.09 a. m.

Volkov: “At 1.06 a. m. I studied a typhoon or cyclone at longitude 29 degrees and latitude 50 degrees.”

From Patsayev’s notebook:

24 June. I observed bright particles before sunrise. These were of differing sizes, at distances of between 1 and 10 metres, moving at differing speeds in differing directions. Some of them were variable in brightness.

7.33 a. m.

Zarya: “Has your appetite changed, and how much food do you eat daily?’’ Dobrovolskiy: “No loss of appetite. We eat everything.”

Zarya: “Do you require anything else related to physical exercise?’’ Dobrovolskiy: “In general, it would be good to run for half an hour. We use every free minute to perform physical exercise.’’

Zarya: “Understood. Could you tell us the most difficult physical exercise, and the reason for this?’’

Dobrovolskiy: “I’ll ask the guys…. There are no such exercises. We actually want to overload ourselves.’’

Zarya: “Do you wear the ‘penguin’ suits continuously?”

Dobrovolskiy: ‘‘Yes, we do – even while sleeping.’’

On the evening of 24 June Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev broke the duration record set by the Soyuz 9 cosmonauts Andriyan Nikolayev and Vitaliy Sevastyanov, who, upon their return, had not been able to stand upright and had found gravity to be so severe that they were concerned they might die whilst asleep. While in space their cardiovascular systems had adjusted to weightlessness, and had then been slow to readjust to the terrestrial environment. At first there had been concern that their hearts would never recover, but by the 6th day they were back to normal. However, even prior to the flight of Soyuz 9, physicians had begun to consider how to reduce the effects of weightlessness. Their strategy was to prevent the heart from becoming accustomed to working in the lightly loaded regime, in order to make recovery after returning more rapid and less stressful. Although the Salyut crew had not exercised at the start of the mission as much as intended, they were making up for it now that they were in their final week. The breaking of the endurance record marked a major milestone. Yeliseyev and Gorbatko called from the TsUP to congratulate them, then

passed on the advice that when they landed they should remain in their couches and await the physicians.

7.29 p. m.

Zarya: “I congratulate all of you on exceeding the flight endurance record. In two orbits the 19th day will be over and the 20th day begun. Hold on, and keep going.” Dobrovolskiy: “Understood, understood. Thank you.”

Zarya: “Well done guys, hold on! How is the physical exercise going?” Dobrovolskiy: “We use everything accessible on board.”

Zarya: “We wish you the most successful end to your task.”

Dobrovolskiy: “Thank you. We will complete it. We feel well – more or less.” Zarya: “Well done! According to all the data, everything on board is excellent.” Dobrovolskiy: “Yes, everything is normal. Thank you, and we send our greetings to you all.”

In a medical check, Dobrovolskiy had a pulse of 72 beats per minute, Patsayev 74, and Volkov 88. Dobrovolskiy had a respiration rate of 20, Volkov 12, and Patsayev 18. The arterial pressure in the case of Dobrovolskiy was 110/78, Volkov 110/70, and Patsayev 130/75.

With regard to the recommendation of the Landing Commission that the descent should occur on the third orbit after undocking, Tregub tried to convince Kamanin to bring this forward to the second orbit in order to reduce the time that the tired men would spend in the tiny ship. But Kamanin refused, because a second-orbit descent would mean a night-time recovery. A third-orbit landing just 24 minutes before sunrise would give sufficient illumination to speed the recovery operation and facilitate any medical intervention.


A characteristic of the development and operation of the first Salyut space station was continuous work under time pressure. It is true that the TsKBEM’s designers, disappointed by the failure of the lunar programmes, worked with great enthusiasm because DOS was new and of major significance to the prestige of the Soviet space programme. However, the deadlines were simply unrealistic. Although the Kremlin told the team not to hurry, they were well aware that Moscow wished the station to be launched and occupied as soon as possible.

The list of achievements during only 16 months is almost unbelievable:

• The station was designed, constructed, tested, modified and launched into space.

• All of the station’s equipment, including the sophisticated apparatus for the scientific programme, was developed, tested and installed.

• The entire flight programme was prepared, including the extremely complex mission control and data processing.

• Two Soyuz spacecraft were fitted with the new docking system for internal transfer to the station, and after the Soyuz 10 failure this was modified for Soyuz 11.

• One Proton and two Soyuz launch vehicles were constructed.

• Three crews (a total of nine cosmonauts) were trained in how to operate the station, and underwent numerous reassignments.

But owing to the unrelenting pressure of time, the designers and managers of the Soyuz 11 mission made numerous omissions and errors, repeating the same basic mistakes which led to the loss of Vladimir Komarov on Soyuz 1 in 1967. After only limited testing, and without attaining the standards required for a successful mission, they launched an inadequately prepared spacecraft with a crew who had expected to train for longer before flying, supported by a control team which was technically and operationally ill-prepared for such a complex mission. In assessing the tragic loss of the Soyuz 11 crew, it is necessary to recognise that it resulted both from technical factors such as the design of the spacecraft and its operating regime, and from the omissions and errors of people right across the programme – politicians, generals, managers, designers, controllers and cosmonauts.

Before closing this gloomy chapter, it is worth summarising all the factors that are known to have contributed in some way to the tragedy.

Ventilation valves:

• Valve screw – The screws on the ventilation valves of the descent module had been insufficiently torqued. The automatic shutter used a ball which was held in its nest by the screw. But the screw on No. 1 valve was not fastened properly, and when the pyrotechnics fired to jettison the orbital module the ball was unseated from its nest. Shatalov, who wrote of the discovery of this problem, did not specify how the screws were torqued on the valves of the Soyuz 11 spacecraft. But it is reasonable to infer from the fact that the ball was unseated on valve No. 1 that the screw was insufficiently torqued. The fact that the screw on the automatic shutter of valve No. 2 remained in its nest implies that this one was torqued to a higher force. It can therefore be concluded that if the screw on valve No. 1 had been somewhat tighter then the tragedy would not have occurred.[114]

• Positions of the manually operated shutters – During the preparation of the spacecraft at the cosmodrome the technicians changed the positions of the manually operated shutters on both valves, making them inconsistent with the onboard documentation. Second only to the loose screw, this is another key factor relating to the valves of Soyuz 11. It is also ironic that on the first occasion that an automatic shutter failed, the actual settings of the manually operated shutters were inconsistent with the onboard documentation. When the configuration of the valves was changed at Baykonur the technicians, as Yeliseyev has written, “did not pay special attention to this change” because the valves were identical. In fact, they seriously erred in setting the valves in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. The manufacturer had no knowledge of the onboard documentation. The job of the technicians was to set the hardware to the configuration required by the crew, who expected the valves to be set differently, and trained to operate them in case of landing on water. In assembling and testing the spacecraft at the cosmodrome it ought to have been understood that irrespective of how the valves were supplied, once installed in the spacecraft they had to be set according to the onboard documentation!

• Manually closing the valves – The construction of the valves required direct manual operation, which in turn meant that the cosmonaut had to unbuckle from his couch and stand up; the valves should have been able to be closed via the command panel.

• Closing time – The closing of the manually operated shutter was too time consuming. In ideal conditions it took at least 35 seconds, which, in view of the dire consequences of the failure of the automated part of the system, was much too long.

• The location of the valves – Valve No. 1’s position above the centre couch was very close to two explosive bolts, making it susceptible to damage from the shock that was propagated through the structure by the jettisoning of the orbital module.

• Valve malfunction – It cannot be proved from the technical documentation, but it is possible that errors were made in manufacturing the valves.

Soyuz life support:

• Risk assessment – Having decided that decompression was impossible, the designers of the spacecraft did not provide an efficient means of protecting against it. The TsKBEM neglected to conduct a full risk assessment of all the factors which could lead to the loss of the crew as a result of not wearing pressure suits. This was done only after the Soyuz 11 tragedy.

• Automation – As on all previous Soviet spacecraft, Soyuz was designed to have the maximum of automation. For example, all landing operations were fully automated and did not require the involvement of the crew. On the one hand this enabled the craft to be flown unmanned; on the other, this made it difficult for a crew to intervene – as was demonstrated when Soyuz 10 was unable to dock with Salyut, and the resulting decision to modify that system for Soyuz 11 to give that crew a degree of control over the docking process. However, as Soyuz 11 demonstrated, the great mistake was to minimise the role of the crew in operating the most important of the vehicle’s systems – the life support system.

• Openings on the descent module – The descent module had three openings of critical importance for its hermetic seal. Two valves with tubes, each with a diameter of about 2 cm, and the hatch at the top of the module which had a diameter of 60 cm.

• Pressure suits – There were no pressure suits to protect the cosmonauts in the event of a decompression.

• Oxygen masks – The crew were not even given simple oxygen masks of the type that deploy automatically if the pressure drops in a commercial airliner. The spacecraft had a loss-of-pressure alarm. If this had deployed masks, the cosmonauts may have been able to function for several minutes after a rapid decompression, which would have been more that sufficient time to shut the leaking valve.

• Air decompression tanks – Due to its severely limited volume, the descent module did not have its own air tanks, and could not have replenished the cabin in the event of decompression. But on the other hand, it was believed that the possibility of decompression had been designed out.

• Inspection of the valves on the previous Soyuz descent modules – It was not the practice of the specialists at the TsKBEM to inspect the state of the valves on a descent module after its mission. If they had done so they would have noted the varying degrees to which the screws of the valves were being torqued during assembly.

• Explosive bolts – The explosive bolts were installed on the connecting ring that incorporated the hatch, which was another part of the descent module which was of critical importance for the crew safety. Westerners speculated that the twelve bolts were supposed to have fired in sequence, but for some reason went off simultaneously, thereby generating an intense shock which forced open the valve. However, the bolts were on the same electric circuit and were meant to fire simultaneously. The shock from their detonation was the same as on previous missions, but the valve was not. Based on all of the available sources related to the technical factors which caused the premature opening of the valve, it is possible to conclude that the main technical cause was its inappropriate assembly, possibly aggravated by a manufacturing fault.

Mission Control:

• Organisation – The organisation of the Soyuz 11 mission was one of the weakest links in the chain of factors leading to the tragedy. The spacecraft was modified and tested much too hastily. The programme for the mission and the organisation of the crew’s activities were also developed in a hurry, and without full consideration of the implications of a prolonged exposure to weightlessness. For Mishin, who was antagonistic to the DOS programme, the main event in June 1971 was the third launch of the N1 lunar rocket. It was to oversee this that immediately after the docking of Soyuz 11 with the Salyut station he reassigned the flight directors. Kamanin and Chertok had only praise for Yeliseyev, but his nomination as the new flight director for the Soyuz 11 mission whilst it was underway was strange. In addition, the difficulty in coordinating the tracking ships in the final phase of the flight is further evidence that there were gaps in the organisation.

• The technical documentation – After the return of Soyuz 10, the revisions to the docking system were made within a month. Due to the tight schedule, Soyuz 11 was launched with onboard documentation and instruction which was inconsistent with the true situation – in particular, the manual shutters of the ventilation valves: No. 1 was ‘closed-open’ instead of‘closed-closed’, and No. 2 was ‘closed-closed’ instead of ‘closed-open’. Consequently, when the cosmonauts realised that a valve was leaking and went by the onboard documentation they wasted valuable time trying to close a valve which was already closed, while one that they thought was closed was actually leaking.

• Carelessness – The controllers at the TsUP knew the valves in the descent module were not as specified by the onboard documentation, but appear to have forgotten to inform the cosmonauts during the preparations to return to Earth.

• Inspections – There were gaps in the organisation of the inspection of the spacecraft’s systems before undocking from Salyut. This was mainly left to the crew, who were exhausted after the longest space mission in history. In addition, the coordination between the TsUP and spacecraft was aggravated by the briefness of the periods of radio communications.

• Hastiness – When a problem developed with the hatch during preparations to undock from Salyut, the TsUP failed to halt the proceedings. Instead of pausing to investigate the problem, the controllers improvised to circumvent the issue with a strip of insulating tape! The problem with the hatch was the warning bell that no one heard. The flight director should have intervened to review with his controllers the status of the life support system, and had the crew repeat the setup of the vital life support elements of the descent module – the ventilation valves as well as the hatch. With the spacecraft docked at the station, time was on their side.


• Crew teamwork – With a new commander assigned less than four months prior to the mission, Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev were members of the third crew until the launch of Soyuz 10 in late April 1971. They had not trained as intensively as the first two crews. Yevgeniy Bashkin, who was an instructor, says that this crew was not given the same attention as the others, since no one expected them to fly to DOS-1. Cosmonaut Gorbatko even said that the majority of the TsPK staff did not recall seeing Patsayev during all his months of training! In addition, after the failure of Soyuz 10 to dock, the crew which expected to fly Soyuz 11 – Leonov, Kubasov and Kolodin – lost about one month of their training time when the launch was advanced from the middle of July to early June. They had only one month to train with the revised docking procedure, and the TsPK staff concentrated on this activity. Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev, who became backups after the failure of Soyuz 10, trained in the shadow of the prime crew. But a few days prior to the launch they found themselves assigned the flight.

• Decompression training – In the training programme there was no basic cosmonaut decompression training.

• Differences in training procedures – The prime and backup crews for the Soyuz 11 mission trained using different re-entry procedures! Contrary to the training regulations, Leonov trained with the manually operated shutters of both ventilation valves closed during the descent. Dobrovolskiy trained according the rules, with one manually operated shutter open and the other closed.


• Wrong valve – Owing to the error in the onboard documentation and the fact that the flight controllers neglected to warn them otherwise, the crew of Soyuz 11 undocked from Salyut believing that the manual shutters of the ventilation valves were set in the opposite sense to that which was the case, and when they realised that a valve was leaking they directed their attention to the wrong one.

• Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev – As the two valves were located above their seats, Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev were involved in the emergency action.

• Volkov – Feoktistov has argued that Volkov, being the flight engineer, was responsible for the onboard systems, and that he failed to conduct a proper inspection of the valves – he could have detected the difference between the onboard documentation and the actual settings of the valves. An important question is what the cosmonauts should have done if Volkov had noted that the valves were set differently? Should he have closed No. 1 and opened No. 2 according the onboard documentation? It would have been logical to tell the TsUP about the difference, and let the flight director decide on the action. Would the fight director order Volkov to leave the valves as they were, or to adjust them to match the onboard documentation? Here is one of the key points concerning the actions of the crew. During his checks, Volkov ought to have discovered that the valves were set differently to the specification in the onboard documentation, but he didn’t. If he had, and had reset the state of the manually operated shutters to the onboard documentation, with No. 1 closed and No. 2 open, then when the automatic shutter on No. 1 became unseated there would not have been a decompression.

• Leonov’s advice – Dobrovolskiy did not accept Leonov’s intuitive advice in preparing for the descent. If the crew had disregarded what was specified in their instructions and had closed the manually operated shutters in both of the valves, when the shock wave from the explosive bolts firing opened the automated shutter of valve No. 1 this could not have led to a decompression. (It is ironic that if this had been done, the lax post-flight inspection routine would probably never have revealed just how close to disaster the Soyuz 11 crew had come!)

• A finger on the valve – Could the Soyuz 11 crew have done more to save their lives? Might Dobrovolskiy or Patsayev have been able to stem the air leak by placing a finger over the valve inlet whose aperture was no larger than a coin. Although Kamanin and the medics said no, Mishin persistently claimed that this could have been done! Could a cosmonaut survive with a part of his skin in direct contact with space? NASA has had one experience of a suit puncture. During a spacewalk on Shuttle mission STS-37 the palm restraint in an astronaut’s glove came loose and migrated until it punched a 1/8-inch hole in the pressure bladder between his thumb and forefinger. He did not realise that his suit had developed a puncture until after he was back inside the spacecraft and discovered a painful red mark on his hand. There had not been a decompression because when the metal bar holed the glove his hand spanned the opening, he bled into space, and the coagulating blood sealed the opening and served to ‘glue’ the bar in the hole, sealing it again.

• Slower reaction – The fatigue and disorientation of the Soyuz 11 crew after 24 days in space, together with the inadequate organisation of the flight, the tensions with the TsUP, the anxiety of the fire, and the difficulty closing the hatch all probably served to slow the reaction time of the cosmonauts during the rapid decompression.

Taken together, all of these factors led – directly and indirectly – to the deaths of the Soyuz 11 cosmonauts.

Although it is frowned upon to discuss the offenders, even although most of them are now dead, this remains a fundamental question. The people who knew that their actions or inactions contributed to the deaths of the cosmonauts had to live with this knowledge. Contrary to expectation, the Kremlin did not issue severe punishments, perhaps because the principal offenders included people from outside the TsKBEM who, against Kamanin’s protests, supported the decision to eliminate pressure suits. The most senior manager punished was Pavel Tsybin, a Deputy Chief Designer who worked for Feoktistov on the development of the transport version of the Soyuz. As after the Soyuz 1 disaster, therefore, the principal blame was assigned to a man who had no direct responsibility for the root cause of the problem. The decision for the crew of a Soyuz ship to fly without pressure suits was made many years earlier. The motivation to have a crew of three was probably to match the Apollo spacecraft that was being developed by the Americans. The concept of the spacecraft was for three modules, with the descent module in the middle. The small size of the capsule required the cosmonauts to fly without pressure suits. Interestingly, when Dmitriy Kozlov, the Chief Designer of Branch No. 3 of OKB-1, revised the design of the spacecraft for use by the military, he reduced the crew to two cosmonauts wearing pressure suits. But Mishin, with the support of Afanasyev (and obviously Ustinov), stopped this project and thereby ended any chance of radically revising the basic concept of the Soyuz spacecraft. But this early work was not lost, and when Bushuyev recommended a detailed redesign of the spacecraft in the wake of the Soyuz 11 tragedy, some of Kozlov’s arguments were reconsidered and accepted.

Although Soyuz was built as a cooperative project with numerous design bureaus and civilian and military structures, the TsKBEM was in charge. The TsKBEM was responsible for all technical aspects of the spacecraft, and also for the organisation and technical control of a flight. So people from the TsKBEM must be at the top of the list of offenders. First is the Chief Designer, Vasiliy Mishin. Then Konstantin Bushuyev, his deputy for manned spacecraft. Then the Soyuz design team headed by Konstantin Feoktistov. Then the managers led by Yevgeniy Shabarov, who were responsible for assembling and testing the Soyuz apparatus. They neglected to test the torque on the screws of the automated ventilation valves, and made changes to the positions of the manually operated shutters. Even if a valve had a technical malfunction, the TsKBEM was responsible for detecting this and, in coordination with the manufacturer, fixing it. On the list must also be the people who were responsible for post-flight assessment of the descent module’s apparatus (which would have revealed the earlier problems with the screws in the ventilation valves); those who tested procedures and managed the technical documentation for the cosmonauts; and the mission controllers led by Yakov Tregub and his assistant Aleksey Yeliseyev.

Are there other offenders outside the TsKBEM? The decompression training that Mishin highlighted is an issue for discussion. Decompression was not included in the training, largely because the descent module was believed not to be susceptible to decompression. But the question was what three men squeezed in the cramped descent module could do in the way of training for such an event? What would be the standard procedure for a period as brief as 13 seconds? Were they supposed to stand up and (as Mishin said) block the valve using a finger? They clearly trained to cycle the manually operated shutters after landing in water. Perhaps they could have been trained to rapidly find the source of a decompression, and to work as a team in such a situation. But how could they have closed a shutter in a mere 13 seconds during an emergency which took at least 35 seconds to shut in ideal circumstances? There was no technical support (such as automatically deployed oxygen masks) to enable a crew to survive decompression long enough to close the valve, and even if they managed this there was no reserve air tank to replenish the cabin! Training was the responsibility of Generals Kamanin and Kuznetsov and, as the main critic of the decision to dispense with pressure suits, perhaps Kamanin should have been more insistent that measures be taken to enable a crew to survive a decompression.

But the most significant omission in the training of the cosmonauts was related to the safest management of the ventilation valves. If both valves had been operated in the ‘closed-closed’ mode, the Soyuz 11 crew would not have died! Contrary to the specification in the training and flight instruction, Leonov’s crew were trained with this mode. The fact that Dobrovolskiy’s crew were trained to operate differently is not their omission, it is that of the trainers at the TsPK.

In addition to all these technical and managerial problems related to the Soyuz 11 mission, there is still the question of whether the cosmonauts could have done more to survive. Their actions can be analysed in relation to operations before and during re-entry/decompression. What could they have done before re-entry? While docked with Salyut, the crew performed a detailed inspection of the spacecraft’s systems by referring to the onboard technical documentation. Here is the first point where the coordination between the TsUP and the crew faltered. The controllers failed to point out that the onboard documentation was incorrect. The crew inspected the valves, but failed to realise the differences between their true status and that in the onboard documentation. As noted, if they had reset the valves to match their documentation, there would have been no decompression. During the checking procedure prior to undocking from the station, Leonov advised that they close both valves and reopen one once the parachute had deployed, but the crew followed their flight instruction. From their point of view, this was reasonable – it was the way that they had trained.

During the decompression the cosmonauts attempted such actions as they could in an effort to halt the leak, but (in view of all the technical limitations in the descent module listed above) they did not have a realistic chance. First, they lost valuable seconds inspecting the hatch seal. Upon realising that the air was leaking from one of the ventilation valves, they attempted to close the manually operated shutter of valve No. 2, which they believed was open but in reality was closed. In desperation, they turned to valve No. 1, which was supposed to be closed, and found that it was actually open! Yeliseyev said they should have worked as a team, and closed both of the valves simultaneously. But even if they had not wasted time on the hatch, and Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev had each moved to close one manually operated shutter, the 13 seconds available before they were rendered ineffective was insufficient to have completed the task – without prior planning and some technical assistance, they had stood no chance of saving themselves.

Specific references

1. Kamanin, N. P., Hidden Space, Book 4. Novosti kosmonavtiki, 2001, pp. 338­340 (in Russian).

2. Chertok, B. Y., Rockets and People – The Moon Race, Book 4. Mashinostrenie, Moscow, 2002, pp. 341-348 (in Russian).

3. Salahutdinov, G. M., ‘Once More about Space’. Aganyok, No. 34, 1990 (Interview with Vasiliy Mishin).

4. Tarasov, A., ‘Missions in dreams and Reality’. Pravda, 20 October 1989 (Interview with Vasiliy Mishin).

5. Yeliseyev, A. S., Life – A Drop in the Sea. ID Aviatsiya and kosmonavtika, Moscow, 1998, p. 82 (in Russian).

6. Novosti kosmonavtiki (in Russian)

No. 4, 2002 (Interview with Vladimir Shatalov)

No. 3, 2005 (Interview with Valeriy Kubasov)

7. Scott, David and Leonov, Alexei, Two Sides of the Moon – Our Story of the Cold War Space Race. Simon & Schuster, 2004, pp. 263-265.

8. Afanasyev, I. B., Baturin, Y. M. and Belozerskiy, A. G., The World Manned Cosmonautics. RTSoft, Moscow, 2005, p. 230 (in Russian).

9. ‘Cosmonauts died because valve was forced open’, The Washington Post, 29 October 1973.

10. Email from Svetlana Patsayeva with materials from Vera Patsayeva, 1 August 2007.

11. Email from David M. Harland, 13 November 2006, ‘Soyuz-11 and the silence of the cosmonauts’.

12. Raketno-Kosmicheskaya Korporatsiya ENERGIYA imeni S. P. Koroleva (RKK Energiya: The aerospace corporation named after S. P. Korolev) 1946-1996 (in Russian).


After training for missions which never flew to the first three DOS stations, in May 1973 Kubasov was assigned with Leonov to the Apollo-Soyuz programme. After the two spacecraft were docked, Thomas Stafford and Donald Slayton transferred through the special airlock to the hatch of Soyuz 19, where the historic handshake between men of the rival space-faring nations occurred. Meanwhile, their colleague Vance Brand remained in the Apollo. The cosmonauts had prepared a surprise for their guests: “We knew that after the docking we would have lunch on our ship with the Americans, so we decided to entertain them. We had brought several samples of Stolichnaya vodka, and once in space we glued these to juice and soup tubes. When ready to eat, we put these ‘rarities’ on the table. After a moment of confusion, the astronauts started to cheer like kids! Of course, they realised that this was a Russian tradition… And on trying it, they laughed heartily.’’ After spending two days in the docked configuration, the spacecraft separated on 19 July and the Soyuz returned to Earth two days later.

In August 1977 Kubasov began to train for his third space flight, which was to be to deliver a foreign cosmonaut to Salyut 6 for the Interkosmos programme. Initially, he was commander of the backup crew for the Polish flight but in November 1978 he was given command of the first crew for the Hungarian flight, making him only the second civilian cosmonaut to be given command of a Soviet spacecraft (the first such assignment having gone to Rukavishnikov). The plan was that the Hungarian flight should be in May 1979, but when Rukavishnikov’s mission in April ran into difficulties the Hungarian flight had to be cancelled to enable an unmanned Soyuz to be sent up to the station to replace the aging ferry which was docked there. As a result, Kubasov and Bertalan Farkash did not launch until 26 May 1980, and then it was on Soyuz 36. The next day Kubasov became the first cosmonaut-engineer to dock a spacecraft with a station. During their week-long visit to Leonid Popov and Valeriy Ryumin, he achieved his ten-year-old dream of working on board a Salyut station.

Kubasov had hoped to make further flights, but it was decided that henceforth the spacecraft commanders must be military cosmonauts. Having been a cosmonaut for 15 years and made three flights he argued that he could not accept flying under the command of an inexperienced military cosmonaut, and in July 1981 he declined to be a candidate for further flights. He managed the training of cosmonaut – engineers for ten years, then worked on the design of life support systems,

After the fiasco of DOS-2 and DOS-3, Valeriy Kubasov and Aleksey Leonov were nominated as the prime crew for the Soviet element of the Soyuz-Apollo mission.

On his third and final space flight, Kubasov was commander of Soviet-Hungarian crew with Bertalan Farkash. They spent a week on Salyut 6 in May 1981, thereby fulfilling Kubasov’s dream of visiting a space station. Here they undergo water training.

biological-medical and thermal regulation equipment. He resigned as a cosmonaut in November 1993 but stayed at NPO Energiya for another four years as a scientific consultant. He has authored one book and co-authored two others. He is currently writing a book about the joint Soyuz-Apollo mission. He periodically goes hunting and although over 70 years of age still plays tennis very well.


Day 20, Friday, 25 June

The measurement of the distribution of high-energy electrons at orbital altitude that was started nine days ago, was continued. This used the Era apparatus, which could detect charged particles in the space through which Salyut passed. Patsayev used it to study how the ionosphere varied along their orbit. He also measured the electron resonance of special antennas designed with a different configuration.

2.57 a. m.

Zarya: “Are you feeling well?”

Dobrovolskiy: “Yes, everything is normal. We feel well. Tell the managers that everything is going to plan. We are even doing some experiments which you did not plan.”

Zarya: “Understood, but do not miss your rest periods.” 3.32 a. m.

Dobrovolskiy: “We have noticed that over this last 24-hour period our eyes have become tired. We move from bright light into the shadow. And it is dark in the ship. To be honest, the illumination inside is inadequate. … We have just observed a very large cyclone at 12 degrees north and 128 degrees east.

Zarya: “Received. One minute to the end of communication.”

Dobrovolskiy: “Understood. End of communication.”

As the mission drew to an end, the cosmonauts became more tired and emotional. At the same time, the physicians recommended that they intensify their exercises to improve their ability to readapt to the Earth’s gravity.

7.20 a. m.

Volkov: “Today when I was doing physical exercise I overloaded myself, and so I am tired. However, I liked it.’’

Zarya: “That is good. The physicians are very glad that you exercise so much.’’ Volkov: “I tried to do everything as you recommended, but tired myself out.’’ Zarya: “Now you can see how good that is.’’

Volkov: “I don’t know if it is good or bad.’’

Zarya: “It is good, it is good. The physicians said it is good.’’

Later in the day, the cosmonauts made their penultimate Cosmovision telecast.

Television Report:

Dobrovolskiy: “We are wrapping up a mission that will last just over three weeks. We are packing equipment, documentation and some of the scientific apparatus, and placing it in the descent module for return to Earth. We will return with a great deal of interesting materials. The scientists, engineers and technicians are eager for them. To be honest with you, we are impatient too, because we have grown a little bored.’’

Zarya-25: “We can see you excellently. Please, could you explain what are you doing at the moment?’’

Dobrovolskiy: “Now? Well, Yantar 2 is going to sleep earlier than normal. Next it will be me, and finally Viktor Ivanovich Patsayev. Then we’ll wake up and exercise to strengthen ourselves ready for departure.’’

Zarya-25: “You know, dear comrades, we are watching your unprecedented flight with the greatest interest. We are delighted with your heroism and magnificent work. We wish you. . . a successful end to the flight and a soft landing.’’

Dobrovolskiy: “Thank you very much. We will see you later on Earth.’’ Zarya-25: “Indeed, see you later on Earth.’’

Dobrovolskiy: “Do not worry. Everything will be just fine with us.’’

Zarya-25: “We are sure of that. Have a happy flight and a successful landing.’’ Dobrovolskiy: “Thank you very much.’’

At 10.30 p. m. the Salyut crew finished their 315th orbit and exceeded by almost 50 hours the previous endurance record. According to Kamanin, observations of the crew showed that they looked tired and had a low attention span. Furthermore, they tended to provide evasive answers to questions about their health.

In the evening, the Landing Commission met again and confirmed the plan to descend on 30 June on the third orbit after undocking, but the landing point was relocated (without explanation) to 200-250 km southwest of Karaganda. The current weather forecast in the recovery zone was favourable. Nikolay Gurovskiy, one of leading aerospace physicians, reported that the medical group would be prepared for all possible situations. The physicians emphasised that the cosmonauts should remain as still as possible following landing, and await the arrival of the doctors in the recovery team. Gurovskiy again stated that it was the opinion of the Ministry of Public Health that the Soyuz 11 cosmonauts would adapt to conditions on Earth more readily than had Nikolayev and Sevastyanov after their 18-day flight.

Day 21, Saturday, 26 June

At 8.04 a. m. on 26 June Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev started their 21st day in space. Their task was to conclude the scientific and technical experiments. Using apparatus mounted outside the station, they finished measurements of the flows of high-energy particles and the flux of micrometeorites – there were sets of sensors for micrometeorites outside the transfer compartment and the larger part of the working compartment. In addition to the radiation in the station, they measured the intensity of the heavy nuclei in cosmic rays and electrons in the 300-600 MeV energy range, all of which was to be correlated with the level of solar activity.

The positions of the micrometeoroid detectors on Salyut’s exterior.

A manually operated instrument to measure the radiation inside the station.

From Volkov’s diary:

26 June, 14:00. The 21st day has started. Zarya congratulated us on breaking the world record for the longest flight in space.[93] Their greetings were most welcome. … We were deeply touched. Our eyes were watery with emotion. The guys were sleeping when I received these greetings on my regular duty. I did not awaken them, but they somehow perceived the news and emerged from their sleeping bags.

Our sleeping bags remind us of a beehive – small holes which we enter at the sleeping time and swim out when we hear the wake-up command (that is, when the man on duty awakens you by shaking your shoulder, or sometimes your head).

By the way, something about the sleeping time. For some reason, the last two nights I slept very little – perhaps three hours in total. I could not force myself to sleep. Last night, I even tried to read Yevgeniy Onegin just before bedtime. I spent an hour reading, to no effect – even the book did not help.

On my previous flight, I did not have dreams. Now, I have as many as I want – even more than on Earth.

When the air inside the station was tested the temperature was 22°C, the pressure was 880 mm of mercury and the composition was normal. The station’s systems were performing extremely well.

10.14 a. m.

Zarya: “Yantar, this is Zarya. Why do you complain?’’

Dobrovolskiy: “I complain because of the ‘torture’ of the medical sensors. Oh my God! … Oh, oh, oh! These doctors … Oh! Right hand, left leg!’’

From Volkov’s diary:

26 June, 17:00. The working day is finishing. Tomorrow is Sunday. Before bedtime, we changed the tank of cooling-drying aggregate in the sanitary – hygiene facilities.

I have checked my [‘penguin’] flight suit for landing.

6.41 p. m.

Dobrovolskiy: ‘‘Of which investigation you are talking?’’

Zarya: ‘‘The medical one. What you have not completed today, you must precisely complete tomorrow. Also, we ask that you time your work involving the Polynom.’’

Dobrovolskiy: ‘‘We are trying to work as on Earth, but here the conditions are different. The amount of work is the terrestrial one, and that is why we are short of time.’’

From Dobrovolskiy’s notebook:

26 June. Volodya Shatalov read to me a clipping from the Pravda newspaper. At a session of the Odessa City Council, I was elected an honorary citizen of the city.

Earth has provided us with a forced physical exercise regime.

Soon will be landing time!

After finishing the scientific programme, the final days of the flight were devoted to intensive physical training, medical examinations and the other preparations for returning to Earth. In concert with controllers at the TsUP, they had already started to prepare Salyut to resume operating in its unmanned regime. They were to check

Left: Dobrovolskiy and Volkov check instructions. Right: Dobrovolskiy controls the flight programme, as Volkov (in the background) exercises on the treadmill.

The Soyuz 11 cosmonauts were very popular among the Soviet public, who followed the flight of the first space station crew with the great interest, in this case in the newspaper Izvestia.

and switch off all equipment that would not be required. The quality of the supplies of water, food and other consumables that would be needed for the next crew had to be checked. In parallel, they prepared the Soyuz, which had been powered down for more than three weeks. The scientific materials to be returned to Earth were stowed in the cramped descent module in such a way as not to alter its centre of mass or to overload it. The crew were permitted to bring back to Earth only items specified by special instruction. Bags of rubbish were loaded into the orbital module, and would be discarded with that module.

As the cosmonauts were packing up their things on that 26 June, Aleksey Isayev, General Designer of OKB-52 (Himmash) and one of the pioneers of Soviet rocketry, suffered a lethal heart attack. He was 63. Isayev led work on the development of the primary and backup engines for all Soviet manned spacecraft, including Salyut. The KTDU-1 braking engine for Vostok and Voskhod and the KTDU-35 for Soyuz had successfully de-orbited all Soviet cosmonauts. Immediately after Isayev’s death the Kremlin issued an announcement that identified him by name for the first time.

Day 22, Sunday, 27 June

On the next day, 27 June, the Soviet Union suffered another severe blow when the third launch of the N1 lunar rocket from Baykonur failed. The flight began well, but after 57 seconds a stabilisation problem caused the automatic control system to turn off all the engines of the first stage and the 3,000-tonne rocket crashed not far away from the launch pad.[94] This was a serious loss for Mishin, because it undermined his ambition to send cosmonauts to the Moon in the near future.

As the world’s first space station, Salyut was the last hope for the Soviet manned space programme. The Soyuz 11 crew had proved that the DOS design was capable of sustaining long-duration missions. In conjunction with the daily telecasts that had enabled people right across the nation to participate in the excitement of living in a space station, the research they undertook demonstrated what flying in space was all about. The Americans had landed on the Moon. So what! Soviet cosmonauts were the masters of Earth orbit, which was where the true benefits were to be gained.

In the meantime, the Salyut crew devoted their 22nd day in space to the increased exercise regime and medical tests.

2.32 a. m.

Dobrovolskiy: “We all have normal blood pressure: Yantar 3 is 115/75, Yantar 1 is 120/70 and Yantar 2 is 115/60. After exercise, our pressure and pulse went from 140/55 to normal in about a minute’s time… different from conditions on Earth.’’

The physicians rescheduled the rest times so that the cosmonauts would be fresher for the landing. However, this meant that for the first time all three men would sleep at the same time. Thus far, at least one man had been on duty at all times. Although the cosmonauts accepted this new regime for the remainder of the mission, they did not like it.

8.27 a. m.

Dobrovolskiy: “I have a question about the sleep schedule. It says that Yantar 3 is to go to sleep at 12.40, that Yantar 2 will be awakened at 14.00, and that during this time Yantar 1 will rest.”

Zarya: “Correct. We will realign you slowly. Do you understand?”

Dobrovolskiy: “The logic of this alignment is understood. Can the station remain without anyone on duty?”

Zarya: “It is the decision of the Control Group. Did you understand me correctly?

Dobrovolskiy: “I understood. However, we are not happy with it.”

Zarya: “Follow the programme. It will be alright. The station is in good order. Do not complain, just do it. The Control Group says the new plan is necessary.”

Dobrovolskiy: “Understood.”

Zarya: “It is necessary to follow the new schedule. We will monitor the telemetry, and if necessary we will awaken you. Do not worry. … Don’t forget that your task now is to rest.’’

Volkov: “We plan to nap on our leisure days, because there is not enough time for this on working days.’’

Although busy with physical exercise, medical tests and preparations to return to Earth, the cosmonauts periodically took time to observe the Earth.

1.42 p. m.

Volkov: “We observed a cyclone over South America at 22 degrees east and 46 degrees south.’’

Zarya: “Logged.”

On 27 June the cosmonauts made their seventh and final Cosmovision telecast. By now they were the best-known cosmonauts since Gagarin, Titov, Teryeshkova and Leonov. Surprisingly, this time the ‘star’ was the most reticent member of the crew – Viktor Patsayev. Interestingly, although the preparations to return to Earth were well underway, the subject was the food that they had been eating during their record-breaking stay is space.

Television Report

Zarya-25: ‘‘Many television viewers and radio listeners would like to know: how do you eat?’’

Patsayev: ‘‘Our food is either in cans or in tubes. We also have small packages of desserts such as prunes and cookies. The food is stored in two freezers – which are very large units. We keep tubes and juices in special containers. Some food can be heated – we have two heaters.’’

Zarya-25: ‘‘You have been in space for 22 days. Has your weight changed?’’

As the mission drew to an end, the cosmonauts continued to monitor terrestrial meteorological phenomena.

Patsayev: “I don’t think so.”

Zarya-25: “What do you do in your rest time?’’

Patsayev: “We don’t have much leisure time, but when we do we read – we have a small library with books by Lermontov, Pushkin and Tolstoy. And we also listen to music on our cassette player.’’

Day 23, Monday, 28 June

Their penultimate day on Salyut began on the morning of 28 June. At 12 noon the station completed its 342nd orbit with a crew on board. While the cosmonauts made their preparations to return to Earth, the landing support team at the TsUP kept up to date on the meteorological forecast for the dawn period in the recovery zone. The most important factor was the wind speed. If the descent module were to land

At Yevpatoriya, the flight controllers were happy with the progress of the mission, and were eager for the crew’s return. In the first row (left to right) are Feoktistov, Nikolayev, Kamanin (with Yeliseyev behind him), Kerimov, Agadzhanov and Chertok. (From the book Rockets and People No 4, courtesy www. astronaut. ru)

On the eve of Soyuz ll’s return to Earth, members of the State Commission arrived at the TsUP in Yevpatoriya from Moscow and Baykonur. Seated in the first row (left to right) are Raushenbakh, Chertok, Agadzhanov, Nikolayev, Mishin, Afanasyev, Kerimov, Bugayskiy (with Semyonov behind) and Shatalov.

on its side, as often happened, and there was a strong wind, then it might roll after landing, and even on a flat surface this would be unpleasant for the men inside, especially if they were feeling weak. In the worst case, if the wind speed exceeded the permitted maximum the module might be damaged on impact and the crew injured – perhaps even fatally. However, the forecast was still favourable. The Landing Commission prepared two sets of instructions for the cosmonauts: the first for the primary landing site and the second – to be used only if the first attempt were to fail – for the reserve site.

Having realised that the cosmonauts were tired, the TsUP worked with them step by step in the process of preparing Salyut to operate in its automated regime in the weeks between the departure of its first crew and the arrival of its second crew. As a result of this close supervision, which was feasible only during the periods when the station was in communication, the effort took much longer than expected. The same procedure was adopted for preparing the Soyuz spacecraft. As part of the process of ‘mothballing’ the station, it was thoroughly cleaned and the rubbish was stowed in the orbital module of the ferry for disposal.

With the landing imminent, experts from the TsKBEM and Himmash arrived at the TsUP. Headed by General Kerimov, the expert group included Boris Chertok, Boris Raushenbakh, Yuriy Semyonov and Viktor Bugayskiy. As on the occasion of the docking three weeks previously, many off-duty controllers again came into the control centre. And of course Very Important People flew in simply in order to take part. As all the preparations for the descent were well in hand, most of the guests took advantage of the delightful weather and passed the time by walking along the beach. Despite the recent launch failure of the N1 rocket, everyone at the TsUP was happy with the progress of the Soyuz 11 mission and was confident that tomorrow’s undocking would go well and that the extraordinary crew would land safely.

The fall of the Chief Designer


The tragedy that befell the Soyuz 11 crew had not only dramatic effects on the plans for further use of the world’s first space station, but also the entire Soviet manned space programme. On 9 July 1971, while the investigation of the accident was underway, the State Commission decided to halt preparations for the next flight to Salyut. This was despite Leonov’s assurance that his crew was ready for a 1-month mission. But after such a terrible tragedy, no one wished to take the risk. Salyut was in very good condition, continuing to orbit in its automated regime. It executed two manoeuvres: on 19 August raising its orbit to 290 x 308 km and on 25 September lowering it to 224 x 262 km. The controllers at the TsUP in Yevpatoriya continued to monitor its systems. However, when it became clear that there was no prospect of revisiting the station, it was de-orbited on 11 October 1971 by lowering its orbit so that it would enter the atmosphere over the South Pacific, where it burned up. It had been in orbit for 175 days.


Meanwhile, the TsKBEM engineers were hard at work developing modifications to the Soyuz to eliminate the weaknesses revealed by the investigation conducted by the State Commission of Academician Mstislav Keldysh. At the recommenda­tion of Konstantin Bushuyev, the issue of pressure suits was reconsidered, and it was duly decided that henceforth cosmonauts should wear them for launch and the return to Earth, even though this would mean reducing the number of couches to two in order to accommodate the system that would automatically pump air into the cabin in the event of a decompression. In fact, this oxygen supply system was designed in such a way that the crew would be able to survive decompression even if they were not protected. Gay Severin quickly adapted the Sokol (‘Falcon’) stratospheric pressure suit, designating the cosmonaut version

the Sokol-K.1 As regards the problematic valve, this was modified in such a manner that a premature opening would cause it to reclose automatically. Once the list of revisions was agreed, it was found that the Soyuz would be overweight for its launch vehicle – at 6.8 tonnes it would be some 100 kg heavier than its predecessor. Something had to go. Because the spacecraft was to be used to ferry crews to and from space stations, and hence would require an endurance in independent flight of only two or three days, it was decided to discard the heavy solar panels in favour of chemical storage batteries. The revisions were completed within a year. One curious fact is that although the new model was significantly different from its predecessor, the 7K-T designation was not extended by an ‘M’ to indicate that it was a modified version.

The spacecraft which would have flown as Soyuz 12 to deliver Leonov’s crew to Salyut was launched unmanned as Cosmos 496 on 26 June 1972, and placed into an orbit with the parameters 195 x 342 km to test the modifications, returning six days later having suffered no problems.[115] [116] This success prompted the TsKBEM managers

The revised Soyuz spacecraft: 1, the propulsion module without solar panels; 2, the descent module for two cosmonauts wearing pressure suits; 3, the orbital module; and 4, the active docking mechanism.

Lost at launch 327

to push ahead with the manned programme by preparing the DOS-2 space station, which was identical to Salyut in terms of construction and apparatus for the reason that it had been the backup vehicle to its predecessor.[117]

In October 1971 four teams of two cosmonauts had been formed, two of which were to fly to DOS-2:

• Aleksey Leonov and Valeriy Kubasov

• Vasiliy Lazaryev and Oleg Makarov

• Aleksey Gubaryev and Georgiy Grechko

• Pyotr Klimuk and Vitaliy Sevastyanov.

Initially, Rukavishnikov was considered for the first crew, but when it was certain that Kubasov did not have tuberculosis Leonov succeeded in having him appointed

The ‘first crew’ for the DOS-2 station: Leonov (left) and Kubasov wearing the new Sokol-K pressure suit.

as his engineer. Gubaryev and Sevastyanov were carried over from DOS-1. But the fact that the new crews had an Air Force cosmonaut as commander and a TsKBEM cosmonaut as flight engineer meant that the military cosmonauts who had trained to serve as engineers for DOS-1 were dropped, which was bad news for Pyotr Kolodin and Anatoliy Voronov.[118] Lazaryev, Makarov, Grechko and Klimuk were transferred from the Contact programme, which had been terminated some time earlier, to train for DOS crews.

DOS-2 in the Assembly-Test Building at Baykonur. The insert shows the station in its shroud, ready for mating with its Proton launch vehicle. The name ‘Salyut 2’ is written on the side of the station’s main compartment.

During the first half of 1972 two of the new spacecraft were built and sent to Baykonur along with DOS-2. All the necessary preparations were concluded by the end of July. With the four crews in attendance, a Proton lifted off at 6.21 a. m. on 29 July 1972 with DOS-2, but 182 seconds later an engine on the second stage failed and the vehicle fell to Earth. If the station had made it into orbit it would have been named Salyut 2, which was the name written on its side. However, since the flight failed at such an early point, the launch was never declared, with the result that for many years the existence of this station was kept secret.

After the loss of DOS-2 the first three crews were reassigned to an autonomous mission to be flown in August-September 1972 using one of the Soyuz spacecraft, but when this was cancelled all four crews from DOS-2 began to train to operate the DOS-3 space station, the construction of which was underway. However, there was a parallel development in progress.


Fate was not very kind to Kolodin. Seven years after losing his chance to fly to the first Salyut in 1971 with Leonov and Kubasov he was named as flight engineer for Soyuz 27. It would be commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Dzhanibekov, who, like Kolodin, had not yet been in space. The objective of the mission, planned

Pyotr Kolodin, the eternal backup.

for launch on 28 January 1978, was to dock with Salyut 6 in order to exchange the ferry for the station’s main crew. It would be a historic mission for the Soviet space programme because for the first time two spacecraft would be docked at a station. However, when the rookie crew of Soyuz 25 failed to dock on the inaugural mission to the station it was decided that in the future at least one cosmonaut of each crew must be experienced. Although Kolodin had been a member of the cosmonaut corps for 13 years he was replaced just two months before launch by Oleg Makarov, who had flight experience. In his autobiography, Kolodin used on 14 occasions phrases such as: “He was training…’’, “he was third backup’’, “second backup…’’, “was training as first backup…’’ and “member of the prime crew…’’. However he never flew in space. Among the cosmonauts, he was legendary as one on whom the stars did not shine. In April 1983 he left the Air Force’s cosmonaut group but continued to work at the TsPK. In November 1986 he retired with the rank of Colonel, then worked as a principal engineer in the Mission Control Centre in Kaliningrad.


Early on 29 June Mishin, Minister Afanasyev and Academician Keldysh flew from Baykonur to Yevpatoriya. No one at the TsUP wished to talk about the N1 failure – in part because Mishin was not in the best of moods, but also because most of the people present were firmly of the opinion that the real future of the Soviet manned space programme was operating orbital stations.

Day 24, Tuesday, 29 June

Shortly after 8 a. m. the cosmonauts began their 24th day in space, but they were all asleep at that time.

4.49 p. m.

Zarya: ‘‘Hello.’’

Volkov: ‘‘Good morning.’’

Zarya: ‘‘How are you feeling?’’

Volkov: “Good.”

Zarya: “And your mood?”

Volkov: “As always. We are on your schedule. We will put on our ‘penguin’ suits now. Everything is in order. The systems of the Soyuz are normal.’’

Dobrovolskiy: ‘‘What is the weather like in the recovery region?’’

Zarya: ‘‘The weather is excellent. All is ready. We are waiting for you.’’

The State Commission met at 7.30 p. m. and confirmed the landing parameters. General Nikolayev reported that everything on the station and the ferry craft was as it should be. Re-entry was to take place on the third orbit after undocking from the station, with the landing timed for 2.18 a. m. on 30 June, approximately 100 km east of Dzhezkazgan in northern Kazakhstan. The crew were not to open the hatch, they were to await the recovery team led by General Leonid Goreglyad and the physician Colonel Anatoliy Lebedyev, who expected to arrive within 20-30 minutes in order to assist them out of the capsule.

When the communication session started at 7.45 p. m. Dobrovolskiy and Volkov reported that the ‘mothballing’ of Salyut had been finished, all items that were to be returned to Earth had been stowed in the descent module, and the cosmonauts were wearing ‘penguin’ suits and were ready to depart as planned. Yeliseyev pointed out that telemetry indicated that Volkov had forgotten to switch on Salyut’s noxious gas

Dobrovolskiy towards the end of the mission, re-entering the station after checking out the Soyuz 11 spacecraft. On his left shoulder is the TsPK patch.

filter. Volkov initially argued that the TsUP had actually recommended leaving this switched off, but when the log of the previous day’s communication was reviewed he accepted his error and returned to the station to activate the filter.

Finally ready to exit, they closed the hatches: first the hatch between the working compartment and the transfer compartment and then, after they had passed through the tunnel into the ferry, the hatch with the passive docking unit. Next was the hatch in the orbital module with the active docking unit. First Volkov, then Patsayev and finally Dobrovolskiy passed into the descent module.

A hermetic seal of the final 60-cm-diameter hatch was of key importance, because when the orbital module was jettisoned this hatch would separate the men from the vacuum, extreme temperatures and radiation of the space environment. As the last man in, Dobrovolskiy closed the hatch, which was on a single 127-mm arm and was sealed by rotating a large grip. But the Hatch Open indicator on the display panel remained lit – without a hermetic seal, the air would leak from the descent module when the orbital module was jettisoned. For the crew, who did not possess pressure suits, this would be fatal.

The TsUP heard Volkov’s strained voice: “The hatch is not hermetically sealed! … What can we do? … What can we do?’’

Yeliseyev calmly advised: “Don’t be disturbed. Open the hatch and turn the grip fully to the left, then close the hatch again and turn the grip six and a half times to the right.’’ He also directed that while the hatch was open they should use a tissue to swipe the ring of the hatch to see whether something had become lodged inside and was precluding a hermetic seal. Volkov and Dobrovolskiy carried out this operation, but the indicator remained illuminated. They repeated the procedure several times, but to no effect. After assessing the situation, the TsUP told the cosmonauts to inspect the sensors which sent the open/closed signal to the display panel.

Yeliseyev recalled of this dramatic time: “We asked the cosmonauts to verify the operation of the sensors that sent signals to the display panel. The sensors are in the form of buttons – just like a door bell. As the hatch closes, it pushes the sensors and they produce signals. All the sensors were in working order. But the guys found that the hatch hardly touched one of the buttons, with the result that it did not push down sufficiently to send the signal. We asked them to verify this repeatedly, and this was confirmed. We requested that they verify visually whether the hatch closed tightly, and they reported that it did. Because the automation would not permit carrying out further operations unless it received the correct signal from the hatch, we decided to generate the signal artificially – we simply asked them to apply a strip of insulating tape to hold the button in the correct position and then to shut the hatch. They did so, and visually confirmed that the hatch was correctly closed.’’

Once Dobrovolskiy had taped the problematic sensor, he closed the hatch and the Hatch Open indicator went out.

“It turned off! The indicator turned off! Everything is in order!’’ Volkov joyfully informed the TsUP.

During the 20 minutes that it had taken to resolve the problem, the mood both on board the spacecraft and in the TsUP had been tense.

Left: The hatch between the descent and the orbital modules. Right: Yeliseyev tells the cosmonauts how to circumvent the warning indication and hermetically close the hatch.

In the second half of the 15th orbit of the day, the pressure in the orbital module was reduced to 160 mm of mercury to verify the seal of the descent module’s hatch; it proved to be airtight. By the 16th orbit of 29 June Soyuz 11 was finally ready to undock from the station.

9.25 p. m.

Patsayev: “The Hatch Open indicator is off.’’

Zarya: “All clear. Go ahead and undock.’’

Patsayev: “The Undock command was issued at 21.25.15.’’

Volkov: “Separation achieved. Separation achieved.’’

Volkov: “I watched the undocking visually. The station moved left of us, during a turn.’’

Zarya: “The landing will occur ten minutes before sunrise.’’

At 9.35 p. m. the cosmonauts reported through the ground station in Yeniseysk in Siberia that they had achieved a normal separation. Having sufficient propellant to manoeuvre, Dobrovolskiy drew to a halt at a range of about 35 metres and then turned his spacecraft to enable Patsayev to take photographs of Salyut through his porthole in order to document its condition.

Day 25, Wednesday, 30 June

The crew of Soyuz 11 had two full orbits to make the preparations for their descent. With two hours remaining to re-entry, Kamanin (call-sign ‘No. 16’), his retirement imminent, made one of his rare calls.

0. 16 a. m.

Kamanin: ‘‘Yantar, I am No. 16, how do you hear me?’’

Dobrovolskiy: ‘‘No. 16, I hear you excellently.’’

Kamanin: ‘‘Here are the landing conditions. Above the territory of the USSR it is

After undocking, Patsayev snapped these pictures of the first Salyut space station. (Courtesy Mark Wade)

slightly cloudy: 3-4 marks. In the landing area it is clear with a visibility of 10 km, the wind is 2-3 metres per second, the temperature is 16°C, the pressures at ground level is 720 mm of mercury. During your descent, constantly report by short-wave and VHF on all antennas – especially those under the hatch of the descent module and on the parachute. After landing, follow your instructions: don’t open the hatch, don’t make any rash movements, await the medical team. I wish you a soft landing. See you soon on Earth!’’

Dobrovolskiy: “Understood: the landing conditions are excellent. Here every­thing is in order, the crew is excellent. We thank you for your help and good wishes.’’ And then a few moments later, Dobrovolskiy: “We are following the programme. The Earth will appear shortly. I am starting orientation. To the side is the station. Splendid, it is a beauty. Now, I am starting orientation.”

Patsayev: “I can see the horizon in the lower part of the porthole.’’

Volkov: “The ‘Re-entry’ indicator is blinking. The SOUD indicator is blinking. It is normal.’’ The SOUD was the system for orientation and control.

Zarya: ‘‘Yes, it is.’’

Dobrovolskiy: ‘‘Systems checked. Everything is normal. The horizon has already appeared. The station is above me.’’

Zarya: ‘‘Good-bye Yantars, until the next communication session.’’

As the crew of Soyuz 11 began their journey back to Earth, the Salyut station on which they had lived for so long receded to a tiny speck gleaming against the dark background of space.

Specific references

1. Vasilyev, M. P., Salyut on Orbit. Mashinostroenie, Moscow, 1973, pp. 107-155 (in Russian).

2. Yeliseyev, A. S., Life – A Drop in the Sea. ID Aviatsiya and kosmonavtika, Moscow, 1998, p. 81 (in Russian).

3. Kamanin, N. P., Hidden Space, Book 4. Novosti kosmonavtiki, 2001, pp. 325­332 (in Russian).

4. Harvey, Brian, The New Russian Space Program. Wiley-Praxis, 1996, pp. 278­279.