Category Salyut – The First Space Station

NOTES FROM THE STATION Day 8: Sunday, 13 June

Salyut entered the communication zone at 0.34 a. m., during its 93rd orbit with the crew on board, but during the next seven orbits its path crossed only a subset of the tracking stations. With the cosmonauts on phased shifts, operations were continuing around the clock. Volkov, for example, had started his working day at 9.30 p. m. the previous evening, Dobrovolskiy joined him at 1.50 a. m., and Patsayev took over from Volkov at 6 a. m.

Dobrovolskiy in Salyut’s main working compartment.

Most of the seventh day was devoted to biological experiments, both agricultural and genetic. The effect of weightlessness on plant growth was to be investigated by a small hydroponics chamber called Oazis-1 (‘Oasis’) which regularly fed a nutrient solution to Chinese cabbage and bulb onions. The genetic tests studied mutations in drosophila (tiny fruit flies), tadpole embryos, yeast cells, chlorella and the seeds of higher plants like linen, cabbage and onion. As the degree of mutation of drosophila had been thoroughly studied on Earth, it would be possible to precisely evaluate the influence of the space environment on heredity. Gamma rays were used to stimulate genetic mutations. In addition, Soyuz 11 had delivered fertilised frog eggs, and their development on the station was monitored.

From Volkov’s diary:

13 June. The eighth day of the flight. On crossing the equator we started the station’s 887th orbit. The other guys are still asleep. Zhora is in the transfer compartment, in a sleeping bag. I cannot see Viktor; he sleeps in my place, on the berth in the orbital module. I’ve already performed physical exercise, had my breakfast (bacon in the can, blackcurrant juice, plums with nuts and cakes) and drunk water.

Although we’re out of radio contact, I will stay on line. After the session, I will perform a medical experiment. I made observations of the starry sky. In the upper region of the night horizon beta Ursa Majoris is clearly visible. At dawn, when the antennas begin to gleam, the stars start to disappear, but not all of them.

In the morning, we cleaned the compartment using the vacuum cleaner. We are currently on the second tank of water, and it appears to be running out already. . . .

Two green stalks have sprouted in the Oazis, each about 2 cm long. The guys are still sleeping. I have to awaken Zhora. He should have appeared at 1.30 and it is now almost 2 o’clock. Out of one of the windows there is an antenna brightly illuminated – our next sunrise has begun.

The Earth asked me to put on the medical belt; I did so.

An interesting view: the Earth is still dark, like the sky, but the antenna on the solar panel is brilliant white. The session has started. In my headphones I hear a song from the movie Fighter Pilot: ‘In a remote landscape my friend flies away.’

Zhora has appeared: ‘‘Will you say something good?’’

‘‘Greetings to you,’’ I joked.

I checked the strength of my hand using the dynamometer: 35/32, just as previously. It is good. Pulse 52.

From Patsayev’s notebook:

13 June: On the porthole opposite to the Sun, frost is visible on the internal surface of the outer glass pane.

Remark No. 1: The bag with instruments has long straps [covering it]. It is better to replace them with slats.

No. 2: The power supply of the vacuum cleaner is too weak. Working in the dim illumination is uncomfortable.11

At about 1 p. m., during the jubilee 100th orbit with the crew on board, Salyut left the communication zone. However, during orbits which crossed the eastern part of North America and the Atlantic Ocean the crew were able to communicate with the controllers on Academician Sergey Korolev, which relayed the data that it received from the station to the TsUP via a Molniya satellite.

Day 9: Monday, 14 June

Salyut entered the communication zone again at 10.53 p. m. on 13 June, during the 108th orbit in its manned state. By now, its orbit had a low point of 255 km, a high point of 277 km and a period 89.6 minutes.

At a meeting of the Landing Commission at the TsUP, Feoktistov ventured that there were too many long and unnecessary conversations with the crew, which the cosmonauts evidently found irritating. As an example, he mentioned that there was no need to specify each day how to make an emergency return to Earth. The crew could readily obtain such data using the globe on the station’s central control panel. Surprisingly, some members of the commission debated this issue, and at the end of the discussion it was agreed that the crew should be consulted and the accuracy of the globe be checked by several brief experiments.

During their eighth day on board, Volkov and Patsayev carried out experiments to improve the station’s autonomous navigation system. Patsayev fed this data into the onboard computer to determine the parameters of the orbit.

The scientific work on 14 June included meteorological experiments, a study of atmospheric formations and snow and ice cover. The cosmonauts on Salyut and the unmanned Meteor satellite launched in October 1970 both recorded the cloud cover over the Volga River. The aim was to use the photographs taken by the cosmonauts to improve the interpretation of the TV pictures transmitted by the Meteor satellite. In addition, the cosmonauts studied atmospheric processes related to the formation of hurricanes and typhoons.

As part of the routine medical programme the cosmonauts checked their eyesight by measuring their ability to adapt to the changing lighting outside the station while on the day-side of its orbit.[77] [78]

Later, viewers in homes across the Soviet Union saw a TV transmission in which the cosmonauts talked about their life on the station.

3.12 a. m.

Volkov: “Give us more Mayak.[79] We are so bored without it. We can hear it very well over South America, but not elsewhere.”

7.56 a. m.

Patsayev: “Can you see us?”

Zarya: “Yes, we can.”

Patsayev: “Now, I’ll show you our commander. He looks neat and tidy.”

From Patsayev’s notebook:

14 June: We aligned the station to the Sun. The station sometimes oscillated – several feeble lurches, obviously due to the redistribution of the propellant.

Remark: The control panels for the scientific apparatus should be protected by glass safety covers.

Shining particles often accompany the station, flying around in different directions. These are specks of dust.

Half an hour after mid-day Salyut left the communication zone of the ground stations, but while it was in range of Academician Sergey Korolev contact with Yevpatoriya was possible via a Molniya satellite.

Day 10: Tuesday, 15 June

The next working day for Salyut began at 10.45 p. m. on 14 June, when the TsUP at Yevpatoriya replied to a call from Volkov, who was on duty. Dobrovolskiy joined him at 3.30 a. m., and Volkov retired when Patsayev awakened.

The cosmonauts used a spectroscope to study areas of the Earth’s surface, while at the same time two aircraft made spectroscopic measurements of the same areas for later comparison with the results from space. When the station was passing over the Caspian coast two specially equipped aircraft from Leningrad State University and the Soviet Academy of Sciences flew along the path. An IL-18 airliner operated at an altitude of 8,000 metres and a light An-2 at a mere 300 metres. The aim was to determine the spectroscopic characteristics of the sea and of the soils in the coastal area, and to compare the results from space with those at different levels within the atmosphere in order to identify any distortions that the atmosphere imposed on the readings from space. Once the airborne data had served to calibrate that from space, it would be possible to ‘subtract’ the atmospheric effects and apply the spaceborne observations to wider areas. Every type of soil, plant and other natural object has its own spectral signature. They can be compared like fingerprints. Thus, the spectral characteristics of soybean plants cannot be mistaken for those of the birch tree, or wheat, larch or lichen. Furthermore, these signatures vary with the age of the plant and the amount of water stored in the soil. Multispectral images provided a valuable new means of monitoring agricultural development and land improvement, and the data was useful to mapmakers, farmers and forest managers.

Meteorological monitoring, and the study of the cloud cover over the Volga River in parallel with the Meteor satellite continued.

The cosmonauts tested the radiation intensity to determine its effects on biological structures on the station. One goal of this work was to develop an effective means of dosimetry control. In addition, the study of charged particles continued using the FEK-7 photo-emulsion camera.

Then they provided another transmission for Russian TV, this time talking about the medical experiments.

Television Report:

Zarya-25: “Do you hear me? Who is on line?”

Volkov: “Yantar 2 is on line.”

Zarya-25: “We have excellent reception. We would like you to tell us about the cardiovascular experiments.”

Volkov: “One of our most important tasks is to perform medical experiments. The data will enable scientists to assess the possibilities for long-duration flights of man in space. Today, I would like to show you one of these experiments. I will show it to you now in detail.”

Zarya-25: “Please do. By the way, Vladislav Nikolayevich, how are you feeling? How is the entire crew?”

Volkov: “We are feeling excellent. Our training on Earth is largely responsible for that. Now, dear comrades, you see Viktor Patsayev preparing to perform a regular medical examination. Our ship’s commander Georgiy Dobrovolskiy is helping him. The experiment is performed using the apparatus you have just seen on your screen. Now Viktor Patsayev is showing the apparatus which he will employ to measure his physiological parameters.’’

From Patsayev’s notebook:

15 June: While the Sun is low (immediately after sunrise or before sunset) the Earth is in a haze. This forms a shroud above the surface, although there is no visible cloudiness. Obviously, some atmospheric layers are lit from the side.

Sometimes there are cloud formations exceeding 1,000 km in length, with a mosaic structure. For example: at 17.40 in the South Atlantic at 50 degrees south and 350 degrees east. Clouds over the ocean looked like foam on the water. The ocean’s colour is a delicate blue. The waves are visible usually through the porthole on the opposite side to the Sun, when the Sun is high. The wakes of ships can be seen, as can condensation trails of high-flying aircraft.

As Patsayev made astrophysical and meteorological observations, his colleagues checked the onboard systems and performed essential maintenance. From time to time, they helped the research engineer in the study of atmospheric phenomena by holding cameras up to the portholes (there were more than 20 portholes, and often the cosmonauts had to move from one to another to record specific features). They monitored clouds at different altitudes and times of the day, cyclones and typhoons, ice cover, bush fires and the melting of glaciers. For example, Dobrovolskiy kept an eye on one cyclone that started in the vicinity of Hawaii, moved west until it was a few hundred kilometres off the east coast of Australia, weakened and disappeared.

The TV viewers did not often see Patsayev, since he served as the cameraman and recorded many sequences featuring his colleagues.

In their time off, the cosmonauts read books, listened to music either on the radio or from their cassette player, and sang their favourite songs. The TsUP controllers kept them up to date with the sporting news. Volkov was especially interested in the national soccer championship. Unlike Nikolayev and Sevastyanov, who shaved on a regular basis during their Soyuz 9 flight, Dobrovolskiy and Volkov let their beards grow. As a military pilot, Dobrovolskiy had asked General Kamanin prior to launch for permission to do this. On TV screens and photographs taken on the station, they resemble explorers of remote and unknown places. Patsayev, however, continued to shave.

From Dobrovolskiy’s notebook:

The 907th orbit. We are working against the pressure of time. Despite some problems, we are accomplishing the experiment programme specified down to the minute by Earth. It is extremely difficult to operate the photographic apparatus due to insufficient light. The frame counter is difficult to see. . . . We need additional time to prepare and check equipment.


The post-mortems were conducted in the Burdenko Military Hospital in Moscow by 17 physicians. All three cosmonauts had suffered brain haemorrhages, subcutaneous bleeding, damaged ear-drums and bleeding of the middle ear. Nitrogen was absent from the blood; it, together with oxygen and carbon dioxide, had boiled and reached the heart and brain in the form of bubbles. The formation of gas in the blood was a symptom of rapid depressurisation. The blood of all three men contained enormous amounts of lactic acid, fully ten times the norm, which was an indication of terrible emotional stress and anoxia.

On Thursday, 1 July, the bodies of the cosmonauts were delivered to the Central House of the Soviet Army on Spaskiy Street, where they were laid in open coffins on a catafalque with sombre drapes and multicoloured military banners. Garlands and wreaths were arranged around the coffins. Dobrovolskiy was the nearest to the entrance, Volkov was in the middle and Patsayev was furthest. All three had been dressed in dark civilian suits and bore on their chests Gold Stars to signify that they were Heroes of the Soviet Union. Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev had been awarded the nation’s top honour posthumously, and Volkov, who had already received one after his first space flight in 1969, gained a second star.

The only one to display any sign of an injury was Patsayev, who had a dark mark similar to a bruise covering most of his right cheek. Dobrovolskiy and Volkov were said by journalists to look uninjured. But for General Kamanin, who was himself in a state of deep shock, only Volkov looked “as alive’’; the faces of Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev were “almost unrecognisable”.

Cosmonauts (right to left) Kubasov, Filipchenko, Gorbatko and Teryeshkova form a guard of honour for their fallen colleagues.

In the eight hours in which the cosmonauts were on display, tens of thousands of people filed past to pay their respects. Among them were the First Secretary of the Communist Party Leonid Brezhnyev, Premier Aleksey Kosygin, President Nikolay Podgorny, members of the Politburo, senior members of the military, academicians, spacecraft designers and cosmonauts, and foreign leaders and ambassadors. The three-man military guard of honour was exchanged every three minutes. For a time they were joined by members of the cosmonaut corps.

The family mourners were in the front part of the room: Lyudmila Dobrovolskiy with daughters Marina (12) and Nataliya (4); Lyudmila Volkova with son Vladimir (13); and Vera Patsayeva with son Dmitriy (14) and daughter Svetlana (9). With them stood Valentina Teryeshkova, who been the person who informed them of the tragedy. Behind, in black suits, were the cosmonauts’ parents: Mariya and Timofey Dobrovolskiy, Olga and Nikolay Volkov, and Mariya Patsayeva, together with their siblings. After several minutes spent standing in silent tribute, Brezhnyev and his colleagues went to the families to express their personal condolences. At one point, Brezhnyev covered his face with his hand and started to cry.

An emotional farewell to the Soyuz 11 crew. Top: Patsayev (left), Volkov (centre) and Dobrovolskiy (right) lie in state in the Central House of the Soviet Army. Middle: Party and government leaders form a guard of honour. Bottom left: Cosmonaut Teryeshkova presents Brezhnyev and Kosygin to the mourners. Bottom centre: Brezhnyev covers his face in grief. Bottom right: Of the three cosmonauts, only Patsayev showed any visible sign of injury, in the form of a dark mark covering most of his right cheek.

At 10 p. m. the Central Army House was closed to the public. At 1 a. m. on 2 July the bodies were cremated. At 10 a. m. the urns containing the ashes were returned to the hall, and for two hours the room was reopened to the public.

Shortly before noon, the American astronaut Colonel Thomas P. Stafford arrived in Moscow to attend the funeral as President Nixon’s representative. He flew there from Belgrade, where, with cosmonaut Pavel Popovich, he had been attending an exhibition entitled Space for Peace. “Before I reached Belgrade, I heard the news that the Soyuz 11 crew had died on their return to Earth. My first worry was that the stress of a long-duration flight had killed them, and I wondered what it would mean to our Skylab crews.’’ The call from the American embassy in Belgrade to urgently pack his bags and travel to Moscow came as a surprise. When Komarov was killed in 1967 Washington had asked to send astronauts Alan Shepard and Frank Borman to the funeral, but the request had been refused. On landing in Moscow Stafford rode with cosmonaut Beregovoy, his host, to the Central Army House, where he paid his respects. While there, he was introduced to Aleksey Leonov, unaware that Leonov was the original commander for the Soyuz 11 mission.[102]

Colonel Popovich had also returned to attend the funeral. He had hastily called the Space for Peace organiser to explain why he must curtail his visit: “The guys have died! This weightlessness will kill all of us.’’

At noon the Central Army House was closed to the public, in order to enable the family mourners, close friends and members of the cosmonaut corps to prepare for the procession to Red Square. Each urn was decorated with a large looped garland and mounted on a rectangular metal cradle that had two long carrying handles. The urns were taken to individual carriages that were drawn by armoured cars. The pallbearers for Dobrovolskiy’s urn included Leonov, Shatalov, Nikolayev and Stafford.

As the cortege made its way slowly to Red Square with the carriages side by side, military officers walked ahead, some with portraits of Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev and others carrying cushions bearing their decorations. A guard of honour marched alongside. And Brezhnyev, Kosygin, Podgorny, members of the Politburo and the government, friends, relatives and other cosmonauts followed behind with the mourners. An accompanying military band played solemn music. The route had been closed to normal traffic. Despite the hot and humid day, hundreds of thousands of people stood in line. Buildings along the route flew their flags at half-mast and displayed black-framed pictures of the dead cosmonauts.

As the procession turned into the cobbled Red Square, thousands of people stood behind barricades around its periphery to observe the final farewell in front of the Lenin Mausoleum. The party on the reviewing platform included national leaders and senior military officers.

The main speech was read by Andrey Kirilenko, a member of the Politburo and head of the State Funeral Commission which was formed on the day of the tragedy, whose membership included Ustinov, Smirnov, Afanasyev, Keldysh and Shatalov.

Pallbearers carry the urn with Dobrovolskiy’s ashes. On the near side are Leonov and Stafford. Cosmonauts Nikolayev and Popovich are partially visible behind Stafford. On the opposite side, are Kirilenko and Shatalov. (Courtesy NASA)

Members of the public join the funeral procession in Moscow’s Red Square.

Chertok and Semyonov among the mourners in Red Square. (From the book Rocket and People, Book No 4, courtesy www. astronaut. ru)

“They died at their post, as heroes die”. The urns with the cosmonauts’ ashes during the final part of the funeral.

In addition, he was the coordinator of the special commission created to investigate why the cosmonauts had died.

“Together with the entire Soviet people and our friends abroad,’’ Kirilenko began, “the Central Committee of the Party, the Presidium of the USSR, and the Soviet government deeply mourn the loss that befell our country. . . . To the last second of their lives Georgiy Dobrovolskiy, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev stayed at the controls of their ship. They died at their post – as heroes die. They were full of vigour, fully confident of fulfilling the assignment from the Party and the people. And they fulfilled that assignment. The results of their observations are

The final farewell was in front of the Lenin Mausoleum.

priceless for science, for the future of cosmonautics, for mankind. … It wasn’t idle curiosity that drew them into space, but the need to unravel more and more of the mysteries of the universe for the good of men. We will continue this difficult but necessary work.’’

Mstislav Keldysh, the head of the Academy of Sciences, was the second orator. He agreed that the Soyuz 11 mission had been a major step in the development of Soviet cosmonautics: “The Salyut-Soyuz 11 flight heralds the start of a new stage in exploring outer space, namely using long-term orbital stations in near-Earth orbits.’’

Generals Nikolayev and Shatalov represented the cosmonaut corps. Shatalov read an open letter written by their colleagues: “We know that our road is a difficult and thorny one but we do not doubt the correctness of our choice, and are always ready for the most difficult flight. . . . We express our firm confidence that what occurred must not halt ongoing development and perfection of space engineering and man’s striving for space. . . . Today, we pay a final tribute to our talented and courageous comrades, but there is not just grief in our hearts, there is also pride in what they did for their country in space.’’

Finally the urns were taken behind the Lenin Mausoleum to the Kremlin’s wall, to be interred alongside those bearing the ashes of cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuriy Gagarin. As the urns were inserted into their niches, cannons fired in salute. Each niche was sealed with a black plate that bore the name of the cosmonaut and the dates of his birth and death. Their photographs and decorations were placed on pedestals alongside, and the families and friends moved in to pay their final respects.

The whole world shared the grief. The Soviet newspapers were full of tributes and messages of condolence from foreign leaders. Among many who sent messages of sympathy to the Soviet people were Queen Elizabeth II, the Pope, Presidents Nixon and Pompidou and Premiers Chou En-lai and Indira Gandhi.

In a letter to Podgorny the Queen wrote: “My husband and I were shocked to hear of the deaths of your three cosmonauts. We extend our sincerest sympathy to you and to the Soviet people on the occasion of the sad loss of these intrepid men.’’

On behalf of the United States, President Nixon wrote to the Soviet leaders: “The American people join in expressing to you and the Soviet people our deepest sympathy on the tragic deaths of the three Soviet cosmonauts. The whole world followed the exploits of these courageous explorers of the unknown and shares the anguish of their loss. But the achievements of cosmonauts Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev remain. It will, I am certain, prove to have contributed greatly to the further achievements of the Soviet programme for the exploration of space and thus to the widening of man’s horizons.’’

President Pompidou wrote: “All Frenchmen, like me, admired their extraordinary exploits.’’

In the Vatican, Pope Paul interrupted a general audience to announce the deaths. He expressed sadness for “this unexpected and tragic epilogue’’, and offered prayers to the families of the three men.

The Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai sent a telegram to express sympathy to the Soviet people for their “deep grief” over the deaths of the cosmonauts, and to “convey heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families’’.

Brezhnyev and Kirilenko help to carry Dobrovolskiy’s urn to its final resting place in the wall of the Kremlin.

The ashes of the three cosmonauts have been interred in the wall of the Kremlin.

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said that the three men had “died as heroes on behalf of science. Their achievement in the exploration of space [was a major] contribution to progress.’’

In the wake of the successful Apollo 11 lunar landing, NASA and the Soviets had begun to consider the possibility of a joint manned space mission. In January 1971 George Low, NASA’s Deputy Director, had led a group of specialists on a visit to Moscow to explore the options, and they met several cosmonauts. Low now sent a letter of condolence.

Valentina Teryeshkova comforts Dobrovolskiy’s daughter Marina at the wall of the Kremlin. Dobrovolskiy’s mother Mariya stands in the background together with cosmonauts Feoktistov (with glasses) and Gorbatko. (Courtesy Peter Pesavento)

Patsayev’s family (left to right): daughter Svetlana, wife Vera and son Dmitriy. Behind is Viktor’s mother Mariya. (Copyright Svetlana Patsayeva)

The popular writer Konstantin Simonov wrote in Pravda: “Warriors know that the most difficult aspect of a reconnaissance mission is to return across the front line to one’s own position. The front line in space reconnaissance, in the struggle to reveal the mysteries of nature, is re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere; the final step before landing. It was precisely at this final step that the crew of the Salyut orbital station perished.’’

Mikhail Rebrov, a special correspondent of the newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, and a close friend of many of the cosmonauts, summed up to the overwhelming feeling at this tragic, yet triumphant, moment in the history of the Soviet space programme: “We know the road to space is difficult and dangerous. But once having embarked upon this road we must continue, for no difficulty or obstacle can turn a man away from his chosen path. The cosmonauts have told us: ‘As long as our hearts beat, we will continue to explore the universe.’ Wonderful and brave people are now dead. Their names will illuminate the arduous road into outer space like stars.’’

Kenneth Gatland, vice-president of the British Interplanetary Society, wrote: ‘‘The entire space community today mourns the three space heroes whose ashes are being buried in the wall of the Kremlin. Before the tragedy that befell them, they opened a new era of space conquest by occupying the world’s first space station. Their epic flight will stand as a landmark in space history.’’

The writer and broadcaster Patrick Moore said: ‘‘Certainly, the uppermost thought in my mind is sadness at the deaths of these three brave men. They will never be forgotten. Unfortunately, nothing can bring them back, but the sympathy of the whole world will go out to their relatives, to their countless friends, and to all the people of the USSR.’’

One of the last sites to record the three cosmonauts alive was the amateur satellite tracking station at Kettering Grammar School in England. Its leader, Geoffrey Perry, said that they received signals from Soyuz 11 as it was passing 200 km above the island of Madeira in the Atlantic, off the northwest coast of Africa. ‘‘At that time we were certain that all three men were still living. After you have been listening to three men’s heartbeats for 24 days, it is difficult to put into words your feelings on discovering that they are dead. We are all very upset.’’

The leaders of the Soviet space programme were quick to reaffirm that manned missions would continue.

Writing in Pravda on 4 July Academician Boris Petrov, who was the chairman of the Interkosmos Council, spoke of the conquest of space as a ‘‘difficult path’’, then repeated Brezhnyev’s statement, made prior to the launch of Salyut: ‘‘Soviet science considers the creation of orbital stations with replacement crews to be the highway to space.’’ Petrov argued that platforms in ‘‘near-Earth space’’ would enable man to make comprehensive studies of the Earth and of astronomy. He said that ‘‘the 1970s will see the development and application of long-term manned orbital stations with replacement crews, making it possible to switch from occasional brief experiments in space to regular work by scientists and specialists in space laboratories.’’ He went on: ‘‘The experience of the Soyuz 11 crew has shown that the Salyut station is well designed for experiments in orbital flight conditions. Such stations offer broad prospects for the continuation and development of the research that was undertaken

by the first Salyut crew…. In due course larger and more complex multipurpose and specialised space stations will be built. But the significance of the work carried out by the first crew of the first manned orbital station … will never fade.” Speaking of the tragedy, he said: “Soyuz ships have already made several space flights, and have safely returned cosmonauts to Earth. When such complex machinery is being tested and mastered, accidents can never be ruled out.”

The disaster overshadowed the Congress of Soviet Writers’ hosted by the Kremlin, where the famous poet Yevgeniy Yevtushenko read a memorial poem:

Two-way Link for Ever

In Kamchatka and in Arbat,

Above the Angara rapids
The sorrowful expiration: guys have perished,

As the requiem above the country

None – no matter how it was crowned –
Will not return to its house finally
To three hearts, large, human
It became less in Russia hearts.

And what heavy burden,

For the people, to whom they were
Simple Vitya and simple Gosha,

And simple Slava – during the recent days.[103]

O, Matrosovs[104] of the cosmodromes!

You left to us your regulations:

Even in space – by vein without having trembled,

To die at the work sites.

As much there are still difficulties
In the sky to be yielded!

And thus far humanity exists
The flame of future spaceships
Will be the eternal fire in your honour

You are as immortal as the cry:

“We have ignition!”

And it’s not true that contact has been lost:

Between you and our native land
There is two-way link for ever.


As soon as TASS made the announcement that the Soyuz 11 crew had been found dead in their couches, people all around the world began to consider whether their deaths were due to a technical fault or were the result of a fundamental limitation of the human body.

One of the prevailing theories was that man might not be able to survive for long periods in weightlessness. For several years there had been a serious debate among scientists about the effects of long-term exposure to weightlessness. In 1965 one of NASA’s Gemini missions had spent 14 days in orbit in order to demonstrate that it was possible to remain in space for the length of time required to fly a lunar landing mission. However, there were indications that the heart grew lazy when exposed to weightlessness. In July 1969 the monkey Bonny died of heart failure after the 9-day flight of NASA’s Biosatellite 3. After the 18-day flight of Andriyan Nikolayev and Vitaliy Sevastyanov on Soyuz 9 in 1970 the Soviets had discovered the debilitating effects of weightlessness: the loss of body fluids, the loss of calcium from the bones and the loss of muscle tone, including the heart. It had taken more than a week for them to readapt to gravity. Perhaps, it was suggested, the Soyuz 11 mission, having lasted six days longer than the previous record, had exceeded man’s limits in space. Medical experts admitted that weightlessness could have played a part in the deaths, but were sceptical that the hearts of three men having different physiologies could have failed simultaneously.

According to one source, the crew of Soyuz 11 complained to the TsUP that they were having breathing difficulties soon after undocking from Salyut, but were told that it was normal.[105]

Western experts in space medicine did not think that the deaths of the cosmonauts resulted from the time they spent in weightlessness. Dr. Charles A. Berry, the chief physician at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas, said: “There is no evidence whatsoever from either our experience or that of the Russians in space, or from ground-based experiments, to suggest that weightlessness could have been responsible.” He thought that the accident may have been caused by the release of a toxic substance. Dr. Walton Jones, Deputy Director of Life Sciences at the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight, said that since the three men were found strapped in their couches, they likely died as a result of sudden decompression, such as would have occurred if a valve had leaked or if the cabin shell had ruptured or was struck and punctured by a meteoroid.

Within hours of the news of the loss of the crew, Kenneth Gatland of the British Interplanetary Society dismissed the effects of returning to Earth after such a long flight as the cause of death. There must have been a mechanical failure. But it was possible that after 24 days in space the cosmonauts were so tired that they had failed to verify all of the spacecraft’s systems, or when an emergency had developed they had been unable to react sufficiently rapidly.

NASA was relieved when the official report ruled out weightlessness and physical deconditioning as causes for the accident. The American space specialists felt sure that the Soyuz must have suffered a mechanical or structural failure. Because the crew were not in protective pressure suits, they could have died from any number of causes: excessive heat, carbon dioxide fumes from a small fire, a nitrogen leak from the spacecraft’s air-supply system, or a rapid drop in cabin pressure. Such theories were supported by unconfirmed reports that all radio transmissions – telemetry as well as voice – had ceased at the conclusion of the braking manoeuvre. In fact, most speculation centred on a failure in the oxygen supply. This was based largely on the rumour in Moscow that the cosmonauts had been found with serene expressions on the faces – such composure is characteristic of hypoxia, a starvation of oxygen that can produce a rapid and relatively painless death.

On learning of the difficulty in closing the hatch prior to undocking from Salyut, Western analysts theorised that if the hatch was insecure the mechanical stresses of re-entry could have made a minor leak into a disastrous one. But in September 1971 cosmonaut Dr. Boris Yegorov said that the disaster struck when the air leaked from the cabin during a period of several seconds as the orbital module was released. He insisted that the hatch was properly sealed, and said that suspicion had fallen on one of the valves used to equalise the pressures across the hatch.

The authorities had deemed the post-mortems sufficient to determine the cause of death, and had proceeded with the State funeral, but were waiting until they fully understood what had gone wrong before concluding the technical investigation.

Specific references

1. ‘They Made Accomplishment’. Politika, Belgrade, 2 July 1971 (in Serbian).

2. ‘Breathless clue to Soyuz space deaths’, The Sunday Times, 4 July 1971.

3. ‘Moscow to go ahead with plans for manned space stations despite Soyuz disaster’. The Times, 5 July 1971.

4. Stafford, Thomas P. with Cassutt, Michael, We Have Capture – Tom Stafford and the Space Race. Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002, pp. 154-156.

5. Kamanin, N. P., Hidden Space, Book 4. Novosti kosmonavtiki, 2001, pp. 333­338 (in Russian).


Great designer and famous cosmonaut Feoktistov played one of the most important roles in starting the DOS programme. In June 1974, soon after Mishin’s dismissal, Glushko named Feoktistov as one of his deputies – a post he held until May 1990. In the summer of 1975 he worked as flight director for the second crew of Salyut 4, although only briefly. His principal task was the design of the ‘Soyuz T’ crew ferry and the automated ‘Progress’ cargo ship, but he also contributed to improved forms of the DOS, including Salyut 6 and the legendary Mir.

In October 1964 Feoktistov became the first space engineer to fly in space, when he was a member of the first Voskhod mission. Four years later he was a serious candidate for the one-man Soyuz 3 flight, but at that time the Air Force did not wish to allow civilians to pilot spacecraft. In the period May to October 1980 he trained to perform extensive maintenance on the thermal regulation system of Salyut 6 in order to extend the use of that station. He was to fly this Soyuz T-3 mission with Leonid Kizim (TsPK, commander) and Oleg Makarov (NPO Energiya). However, in October, less than a month before the scheduled date of launch, he was replaced by Gennadiy Strekalov. Although the official explanation was that Feoktistov had a medical problem, he insists otherwise: ‘‘It was the Air Force. I have battled them all the time. You see, I thought that those who knew most about cosmonautics should be the ones to fly. In fact, the point was reached at which the leader of the mission should have been a cosmonaut-engineer, not the spacecraft’s commander. However, the soldiers did not like this idea.’’ In October 1987, aged 62, he left the ranks of the cosmonauts. Yuriy Semyonov was once Feoktistov’s boss on the DOS programme, but under Glushko was assigned to direct the development of the Buran space-plane. Feoktistov, who never held back in criticising the direction of the space programme, condemned this project. Semyonov never forgave him, and in May 1990, shortly after Semyonov was appointed head of NPO Energiya, Feoktistov drew his 35-year career as a spacecraft designer to an end and moved to Moscow’s Higher Technical School (MVTU) Bauman. Many of the leading figures in Soviet rocketry and space technology came from Bauman – among them Feoktistov, who got his PhD there in 1967. He retired in 2005.

Feoktistov authored over 150 scientific papers and also several books. In Seven Steps to the Sky, published in 1984,[133] he wrote of a manned flight to Mars. As time went by he grew ever more critical of the space programme. Given that Feoktistov dedicated his best years to the development of space technology his autobiography, Life Path, published in 2000,[134] was written in a curious, sometimes sarcastic style.

Regarding the role of the International Space Station (ISS), whose lineage can be traced back to his own DOS work, and the future of manned space flight in general, he states:

People should not work on this subject just now. There is nothing interesting at the ISS – or in space. There is no serious research. We and the Americans have both spent so much time and effort on manned fights and space stations, but the attainment of the main goal is not linked to these projects. However, the Hubble telescope has offered a great amount of new information. People should work in the areas where results can be obtained. The future belongs to

“There is nothing interesting at the ISS – or in space.’’ Having devoted his career to the design of manned spacecraft, Konstantin Feoktistov (here between cosmonauts Makarov and Kizim) later became a critic of manned space flight.

automated stations. Manned cosmonautics lacks any practical sense and it will not have any meaning, not now, not in future times.

From three marriages Feoktistov has the largest family among all Soviet/ Russian cosmonauts: comprising one daughter and three sons – one of whom was born in 1982 when Feoktistov was 56. He is the oldest of the still-living Soviet cosmonauts to have flown in space. A crater on the far side of the Moon, 19 km in diameter, was named in his honour. In February 2006 he celebrated his jubilee 80th birthday.


As the resources of the station (propellant, air, food and water) were sufficient to continue manned operations until 20 August, the return of Soyuz 11 was set for the last day of June and the launch of Soyuz 12 for between 15 and 20 July. The second crew would depart from the station just before its resources expired. In addition, a review of the resources on Soyuz 11 determined that it was capable of 57 hours of autonomous flight after undocking from the station.

Meanwhile, after a 10-day break on the Black Sea, Leonov’s crew returned to the TsPK. There was a debate as to who should replace the ailing Kubasov. In the backup crew were Gubaryev, Sevastyanov and Voronov. Serving as flight engineer on Soyuz 9 Sevastyanov had performed the longest spaceflight a year ago, but the schedule did not provide sufficient time for him to train for Soyuz 12. Although in a short period of time Filipchenko, Grechko and Makarov all joined the DOS group, in mid-June they were reassigned yet again, this time to fly an autonomous Soyuz mission. Then Kubasov passed a detailed medical screening at the Institute for Biomedical Problems, indicating that he had suffered from no more than a simple allergy, which had almost cleared up. Nevertheless, when on 15 June Kamanin recommended that the Soyuz 12 crew should start training to fly the second DOS-1 mission, Mishin nominated Rukavishnikov to replace Kubasov on this crew.[80]

In addition, Kamanin nominated commanders and military research engineers for three more DOS crews. Later on, Mishin would add his flight engineers to complete them. Using the labels C for commander, FE for flight engineer and RE for research engineer, the assignments were:

• Prime crew (the second crew for DOS-1): Aleksey Leonov (C), Nikolay Rukavishnikov (FE), Pyotr Kolodin (RE);

• Backup crew: Aleksey Gubaryev (C), Vitaliy Sevastyanov (FE), Anatoliy Voronov (RE);

• The third crew: Pyotr Klimuk (C), FE from the TsKBEM, Yuriy Artyukhin (RE);

• The fourth crew: Valeriy Bykovskiy (C), FE from the TsKBEM, Vladimir Alekseyev (RE);

• The fifth crew: Viktor Gorbatko (C), FE and RE both from the TsKBEM.

In general, Leonov and Gubaryev’s crews trained for the final mission to DOS-1, and Gubaryev’s crew expected to fly in early 1972 as the first to DOS-2, followed by Klimuk’s crew. Bykovskiy and Gorbatko’s crews were to backup DOS-2. Although Kamanin allowed the last of the four crews for DOS-2 to have two civilian cosmonauts, their chances of flying were low.

Interestingly, one of Mishin’s candidates for flight engineer on the DOS-2 crews was Feoktistov who, with Mishin and Tregub’s support, approached Kamanin with a view to entering training, but Kamanin’s negative attitude towards him remained strong.

The first two crews, prime and backup, were to end their training by 30 June, the day of Soyuz 11’s planned return to Earth. In early July they would fly to Baykonur to prepare for a launch less than three weeks later. Although there was only a month remaining before his flight, Leonov asked Kamanin for permission to travel to the GDR (East Germany) to deliver personally to the Dresden Gallery his cosmic water colours. Kamanin refused the request with the following words: “If you do not want to place yourself in a stupid position, then don’t tell anyone of this desire of yours. But, know that I will be categorically against your trip to GDR.’’ Kamanin wrote in his diary on 15 June: “It was only a little bit over two weeks left before departure to the cosmodrome, and the commander of Soyuz 12 thinks not so much of the flight in space but about delivering his paintings to the Dresden Gallery.’’

Specific references

1. Vasilyev, M. P., Salyut on Orbit. Mashinostroenie, Moscow, 1973, pp. 21-81 (in Russian).

2. Kamanin, N. P., Hidden Space, Book 4. Novosti kosmonavtiki, 2001, pp. 317­320 (in Russian).

Thirteen seconds to eternity


A special 12-member State Commission was formed to determine the specific cause of the Soyuz 11 tragedy. The chairman was Academician Mstislav Keldysh, and his deputy was Georgiy Babakin, who was the Chief Designer of the Lavochkin Design Bureau which developed lunar and interplanetary probes. The membership included Sergey Afanasyev, head of the Ministry of General Machine Building, and General Designer Valentin Glushko. Although Glushko developed the engines for Korolev’s rockets in the 1950s, his relationship with Mishin was strained. The Commission set up ten subcommittees to investigate every aspect of a Soyuz flight, including launch, orbital operations, mission control, working with the Salyut station, undocking, the braking manoeuvre, re-entry and landing; and then to recommend ways in which to improve the design and operation of the spacecraft. Six of the subcommittees were led by the Air Force representatives, who included cosmonauts Shatalov, Nikolayev and Beregovoy. Interestingly, although General Kamanin was replaced in his post by Shatalov, he led the subcommittee that analysed conditions on Salyut and drew up recommendations for its future use. This would prove to be the final assignment of his 11-year career in charge of the Air Force’s manned space programme.

The State Commission held its first meeting on 3 July, the day after the funeral, at which time it planned the investigation and specified the subcommittees. It had two weeks in which to undertake its investigation and submit its report. For its first operative meeting on 7 July, Keldysh invited the attendance of the most important TsKBEM people involved in the DOS programme – Mishin, Bushuyev, Chertok, Tregub, Shabarov, Semyonov and Feoktistov.


After leaving Mikhail Yangel’s Design Bureau in 1964 to join Korolev, Semyonov rose steadily through the ranks. He started as an assistant to the main designer of the Soyuz spacecraft, but was then appointed the main designer for the L1 circumlunar variant, and finally the main designer for the DOS programme. During the period in which Glushko ran the company, Semyonov participated in improving the Soyuz to serve the second-generation Salyuts, and later Mir. He also directed the Interkosmos programme which trained cosmonauts from fraternal communist countries and gave them brief visits to Salyut 6. In 1981 he was appointed Glushko’s principal deputy, and was placed in charge of the development of the Buran space-plane. During the Gorbachov era he tried politics, but was hindered by the fact that his wife was the daughter of Andrey Kirilenko, who was a senior man in the Politburo of Leonid Brezhnyev. After Glushko’s death in 1989 Semyonov became General Designer of NPO Energiya. In 1991 he was made General Director, and played a key role in preserving the core of the national space programme. After the conglomerate was re-organised in early 1995 as Space Rocket Corporation (RKK) Energiya, he became its first president. He established strong links with the two leading Western space agencies: NASA and ESA. This collaboration prolonged the period of operation of the Mir space station. Nevertheless, once the American use of Mir ended there were no funds to continue to operate the station, and in March 2001 it was de-orbited. By this time, however, Russia was a partner in the International Space Station (ISS). Although RKK Energiya was playing a key role, a significant fraction of the work went to the M. V. Khrunichev Centre, which had become a commercial competitor in the space market. In an effort to improve RKK Energiya’s income, Semyonov, against opposition from NASA, offered Soyuz ‘tourist flights’ to the ISS. Following the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia established a space agency to coordinate the national space programme. Even though the government owned 38 per cent of RKK Energiya, Semyonov tried to bypass the national space agency, thereby drawing criticism, and in May 2005, a month after his 70th birthday, the government told him to retire. He was superseded by 44-year-old Nikolay Sevastyanov. Semyonov holds a PhD in Technical Sciences and has authored over 200 scientific papers.

Yuriy Semyonov as General Designer at NPO Energiya.

General Nikolay Kamanin (left) and General Designer of NPO Energiya Valentin Glushko at the TsPK in Zvyozdniy in August 1974. (From the book Hidden Space, courtesy www. astronaut. ru)

The fire


To the national TV audience, the flight of the Yantars had settled into an established routine with the cosmonauts working to the timetable of scientific experiments, exercises and other activities. The programme was going to plan and the crew were in excellent spirits. There was not even the slightest hint in their transmissions of the clashes between Volkov and Dobrovolskiy. At the TsUP, Yeliseyev, Nikolayev, Bykovskiy and Gorbatko, who were jointly responsible for communicating with the station, worked hard to calm the tensions on board.

Day 11, Wednesday, 16 June

Dobrovolskiy and Volkov performed a test of the various methods for controlling the station. When doing so manually they used the wide-angle optical periscope. In addition, the accuracy of the ion automatic control system was tested. They also checked the intensity of the flashes while the attitude control system’s engines were firing. Later, they studied the cloud formations in the upper atmosphere using a radio-mass-spectrometer.[81] During the brief time when all three men were awake, Patsayev performed routine medical tests. In terms of heart rate, Dobrovolskiy had 78 beats per minute and Patsayev 77, but Volkov had just 58; the norm being 60-80. And whereas Dobrovolskiy had an arterial blood pressure of 135/75 and Patsayev 135/85, Volkov was lower at 118/55.

From Dobrovolskiy’s notebook:

16 June: At the beginning, we did not drink much water. Nor did we eat the assigned amounts. But, like at home, we ate when we felt hungry. However, the days are passing and we are slowly adopting the planned regime.

“Stupid weightlessness! Another pencil has gone!’’ yells Vadim.

Weightlessness is an interesting state. I am writing with Viktor’s pencil – I lost mine a long time ago; almost all our pencils have gone.

It appeared that apart from problems with weightlessness and the lost pencils, the mission was progressing normally. But suddenly the situation changed. Just before the start of another communication session, Volkov noticed a smell of smoke from somewhere at rear of the station. As soon as communication was established, he reported: “Aboard the station is ‘the curtain’!’’ The anxiety in his voice was evident. To confuse the Westerners eavesdropping on the station’s transmissions, a number of code words had been defined, and ‘the curtain’ meant something related to fire and smoke. Unfortunately, having forgotten what this code meant, the controllers asked Volkov for an explanation. He furiously shouted in plain language: ‘‘There is a fire onboard! We are now entering into the ship!’’ He meant that they were retreating to the Soyuz ferry. He added that there was also a strong smell of burning electrical insulation. In their haste, they neglected to get the instructions for an evacuation, so he requested assistance: ‘‘Read us the instructions for an emergency undocking from the station!’’

When the TsUP sought information about the source of the smoke, they were told that it was coming from a panel on the aft wall which separated the habitable part of the station from the propulsion section. The controllers could tell from the agitated voices that the crew were alarmed. While it was logical to evacuate the station, they should not do this while there was any prospect of extinguishing the fire. The first thought that came to mind was that one of the scientific instruments had caught fire. At that time, scientific organisations had yet to develop highly reliable equipment for use in space, and some faults were likely. In the main control room at the TsUP, Yeliseyev and Nikolayev acted to gain control of the situation by telling the crew to switch off all the scientific equipment, try to find the source of the smoke, and then retreat to the Soyuz. But the communication session expired before the cosmonauts could report.

Immediately after the communication session the leaders of the various groups at the TsUP met in the main control room to plan what to tell the crew to do during the next session. Their dilemma was that they did not know the situation on the station. Were the cosmonauts in the ship? Had they sealed the hatch to the station? Might they even have undocked! Since this was obviously no time to engage in a lengthy discussion, everyone was brief and businesslike:

‘‘What should we do?’’

‘‘It is necessary to prepare several options.’’


‘‘Let’s begin with the worst case: that they have undocked the spacecraft from the station.’’

‘‘We’ll need several orbits to determine the status of the station. If they remained nearby, will they have enough fuel and life support to dock again?’’

‘‘We will have to calculate that.’’

‘‘Ask your specialists.’’


Life on board Salyut. In the two upper photos Dobrovolskiy and Volkov are in the working compartment, wearing their ‘penguin’ suits. Dobrovolskiy relaxes (middle left) after the fire on board the station. Dobrovolskiy (right) and Volkov discuss the flight programme (middle right). At times they were in conflict over how best to proceed. Patsayev can be seen working the Orion telescope (bottom left), and with Volkov taking blood samples (bottom right – note also the shoulder strapping of Volkov’s ‘penguin’ suit).

“It is important to know whether they closed the station’s hatch before undocking, because if they didn’t then we’ve lost it!’’

“That is clear. If they have undocked, then there is no urgency about the ship. We must focus on checking the station: first, the composition of the atmosphere and the power supply system.’’

“We should switch on the internal camera and assess the situation for ourselves.’’ “Agreed. Analysis Group, see to this.’’

“What if the cosmonauts are still on board the station?’’

“We must question them. But first we must calm them down. They will probably have switched off the faulty instrument, but what if this had no effect?’’

“Then the situation will be urgent.’’

“Let us prepare two additional plans: one for an urgent evacuation of the station, and the other a normal evacuation that returns the systems to the automated regime. Planning Group, this is for you.’’


“If the faulty apparatus is switched off, the first step is to identify it, as otherwise we won’t be able to reactivate the other instruments. Today’s programme of work is already lost. Let us form a working group to find the problem. Representatives of Planning, Analysis and Experiments will participate, with the latter in charge.’’ “Agreed.’’

“We will have to remove the smoke from the station.’’

“The Analysis Group should prepare proposals.’’

“A longer period of communication will be required. We urgently need to connect all the command-measuring sites and arrange additional [telemetry] communication channels from the Ministry of Telecommunications.’’

“Okay, good. Now get to work. We will reconvene five minutes before the start of the next session and coordinate our efforts.’’

After the specialists had dispersed for their assignments, Minister Afanasyev rang from Moscow to ask what was happening on Salyut; as did Kerimov and members of the Central Committee. Yeliseyev explained only that a scientific instrument had caught fire, the cosmonauts had switched off all of the instruments, and specialists at the TsUP were studying a number of options to overcome the problem.

Yeliseyev also called Mishin, who immediately convened Bushuyev, Semyonov, Tregub, Feoktistov and Chertok. As Mishin told the TsKBEM team: “Yeliseyev has just reported that there is a fire on the DOS. The crew is preparing for an emergency landing. We must alert Kamanin to prepare the recovery team. Tregub must initiate work with the Ballistics Group to determine the best orbit on which to undock to ensure that the landing will be on our territory.’’ It was decided that Tregub should go to assist Yeliseyev – although because a flight to Crimea would take five hours it was entirely possible that by the time he arrived the cosmonauts would themselves be back on Earth. The others would remain in Moscow and monitor the situation via internal channels. If it proved possible to continue the programme as planned, then in five days Chertok and Raushenbakh would join Tregub at the TsUP for the final phase of the mission.


The controllers met again five minutes before the next communication session and Yeliseyev’s team prepared brief instructions appropriate to each of the three options. Just in case, he invited Eleonora Krapivina, who had spent a lot of time studying the crew in training and could evaluate their capabilities in an emergency situation. For Yeliseyev, it was important to have someone on hand to assist him in providing the most important instructions to the cosmonauts in the brief time available during the communication session.

When radio contact could be expected, Yeliseyev called: “Yantar! This is Zarya! On line!’’

Instead of the station commander, who was responsible for reporting on incidents as serious as this, the response came from Volkov.

Volkov: “Zarya, this is Yantar. We hear you well.’’

Zarya: “Where are you?’’

Volkov: “In the station.’’

Zarya: “Report what is happening.’’

Volkov: “The smoke isn’t being produced any more, but there is still smoke in the station. We have headaches.’’

It was evident from Volkov’s voice that he was tired, almost exhausted, but there was no sign of the previous anxiety. The smoke had come from the control panel of the scientific apparatus (PUNA) located on the wall at the rear of the main working compartment. This suggested that the problem was simply the failure of one of the science instruments. The controllers were greatly relieved. The instructions for this situation were very simple – to switch on the filter to cleanse the atmosphere.

Flight director Yeliseyev and Colonel Gorbatko played an important role in calming the Salyut crew after a fire broke out on the station, convincing them to continue the mission.

For reassurance, Yeliseyev explained the procedure for abandoning the station: “The order of the steps for an emergency evacuation is printed on pages 110 to 120. It lists what you should do after your transfer into the descent module. After transfer, prepare the spacecraft according to the instruction on 7K-T, pages 98a and 98b.[82] To undock, read pages 133 to 136. However, return only on command from the Earth. Don’t hurry. With the panel switched off, the smoke should cease. If you choose to depart, leave the filter on. Take tablets for your headaches. The telemetry indicates that the carbon dioxide and oxygen concentrations are normal. The commander will take the decision about transferring to the ship and undocking from the station.’’

As commander of the station, Dobrovolskiy understood that it was time for him to take control of the communication: “Zarya, I am Yantar 1. We understand. There is no hurry. PUNA is switched off. Now two of us will be on duty, one will rest. Don’t worry, we want to continue working.’’

Zarya: “Yantar 1, this is Zarya. We have analysed the onboard systems and we believe our recommendations will restore the situation. We hope you will be able to continue the flight according to the plan. The smell of the smoke will disappear. We suggest that you rest tomorrow, then resume the normal regime. Later, after you have left the communication zone of the ground stations, the ship Academician Sergey Korolev will contact you.’’

General Kamanin, who was planning to fly to Yevpatoriya on the afternoon of the same day, had been informed of the problem by General Shatalov in Zvyozdniy.[83] When Kamanin arrived at Yevpatoriya, Colonel Bykovskiy informed him: “The situation has improved. There is no longer smoke, just the smell of soot. But in the last six hours the crew has been so busy that they have not had dinner, and therefore are in need of rest.’’

During the emergency Volkov had become extremely nervous and, as the veteran, had usurped Dobrovolskiy’s role and attempted to resolve the situation by himself. When he used expressions like “I decided’’ and “I did’’ in later conversations with Yeliseyev, Nikolayev and Bykovskiy it became clear that he was too emotional and independently minded to realise or acknowledge his errors.

In one of his last interviews, published in 1989, Mishin recalled: “I had a complex conversation with Volkov. He declared himself to be in command. When the cable burned, they lost their heads and wanted to depart the station. I calmed them down.’’ In addition, Mishin ordered Volkov to respect the commander: “Everything must be solved by the crew commander; carry out his orders.’’ But Volkov had replied: “The whole crew decides things together. We will sort out how to proceed by ourselves.’’

The tracking ship Academician Sergey Korolev.

At 10.30 p. m., the station entered the communication zone on its 155th orbit with the crew on board. Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev had calmed Volkov and sent him to rest, and he had fallen asleep. Kamanin conversed with Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev. After recounting the sequence of events on the station and describing the health of the crew, Dobrovolskiy judged the situation to be “almost normal”. Although it was clear that they were exhausted by the day’s events, he concluded: “We’ll probably be able to continue the flight.’’

In his diary Kamanin added: “Prior to the launch of Soyuz 11 we agreed with Georgiy Dobrovolskiy that in describing the status of the station and the crew, if he had no doubt about continuing the flight he should say ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’, and if he had doubts then he should say ‘satisfactory’. But the station commander forgot this.’’ Kamanin was also dissatisfied that Dobrovolskiy appeared to have deferred to Volkov, who, after reminding everyone that he was the most experienced member of the crew, had dominated the communications with the TsUP.

A few orbits later, Academician Sergey Korolev made contact with the station and then informed the controllers at the TsUP that the situation on board was improving: Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev had eaten a meal and Volkov was still asleep.

The sudden emission of smoke in the station had strained the relationships between the members of the crew to the limit. During the crisis the cosmonauts continued to make entries in their notebooks. One remark by Dobrovolskiy clearly indicates his concern: ‘‘If this is harmony, what is divergence?’’

Day 12, Thursday, 17 June

The next day, while the controllers analysed the telemetry received from the station, the crew visually inspected the locus of the fire, identified the faulty apparatus, and isolated it from its power supply. It was the fan to cool the panel for controlling the orientation of some of the scientific equipment. When the fan seized, the motor had continued to try to drive it, and the winding of the stator had overheated and issued a dense smoke. Although there had been no flame, as such, this was the first case of a ‘fire’ on the manned space mission.

On the recommendation of the TsUP, the cosmonauts reactivated the instruments one by one until all the scientific equipment was again operational.

Although the filter removed the smoke, the crew remained concerned about the composition of the atmosphere.

4.26 a. m.

Zarya: ‘‘During the 955th orbit, perform a functional test with the apparatus.’’

Dobrovolskiy: ‘‘What is the composition of the atmosphere?’’

Zarya: ‘‘It is normal.’’

Dobrovolskiy: ‘‘Are you watching the oxygen?’’

Zarya: ‘‘The oxygen is normal. We are watching it for you.’’

With this assurance, Dobrovolskiy retired for some much-needed sleep. Patsayev was already asleep. Volkov, now sounding less anxious, was on duty.

7.31 a. m.

Zarya: “Yantar 2, please remind Yantar 3 that on the 957th orbit he is scheduled to do a stabilisation.”

Volkov: “I won’t awake them, they’re so tired.”

Zarya: “It isn’t necessary now. Let them rest.’’

11.56 a. m.

Zarya: “We have a question. How many times did each of you use the vacuum unit – how often and for how long? You can reply tomorrow if you don’t have the details to hand.’’ This was an enquiry about the Veter lower-body negative-pressure apparatus.

Dobrovolskiy: “Understood. The vacuum unit is good. During one test, I reduced the pressure to -70 mm [of mercury] and felt excellent. The loads aren’t like those on Earth, they are much less, and it is possible to increase the vacuum level without risk.’’

Later in the day, General Agadzhanov advised members of the State Commission that the situation was satisfactory, and since the crew were in no immediate danger there was no reason to curtail the flight. When the issue was raised of whether a fire might occur in another system, it was decided that the cosmonauts should switch off all the scientific apparatus until Chertok and his team could determine the status of the station’s electrical system and assess the potential of another fire.

How did the families of the cosmonauts react to these dramatic events? Svetlana Patsayeva was at a Young Pioneers’ camp and hence was personally unaware of the problem in space: “But,’’ she recalled, “for my mom these days were very difficult. She wrote a diary during the entire mission. I read these very personal records only following her death. Her diary clearly shows how much she worried about the crew. She knew the dangers. Indeed, she worked at an enterprise near dad’s and actually knew the complexities of a space mission.[84] Mom was present during the periods of communication with the crew, and was up to date with what was happening on the station. I didn’t know of the fire, but mom knew from the conversations of the crew with the Earth. And she knew how serious it might become.’’

Marina Dobrovolskiy was also unaware of the incident: “The technical side of the flight did not greatly concern me. I thought about dad, how he was feeling, what he was doing, and when he would return. But I was always sure that my father would find the correct solution and skillfully overcome even a very difficult situation. So it was with the fire. Indeed whether or not the station would continue in operation was dependent on a command decision.’’

In the meantime Western observers picked up Volkov’s unencrypted transmission that there was a fire on board the station, and, their suspicions aroused, observed an intriguing change to the daily routine on 17 June – the Soviet press reports made no mention of either scientific work or a TV transmission, they referred instead to the

cosmonauts having carried out “minor corrective work”, explaining that there were tools, spare parts and safety devices on the station.


The first to present was Vasiliy Mishin, who described how the Soyuz 11 spacecraft differed from its predecessors. He pointed out that a total of 19 spacecraft had been

launched since November 1966, with Soyuz 10 and Soyuz 11 being the 7K-T crew ferry. The main difference between the two recent ships was the modification to the docking system following its failure on the Soyuz 10 mission. According to Mishin, Soyuz 11 suffered no major problems until the separation of its modules. It is not clear whether he told the Commission of the difficulty in closing the hatch prior to undocking. Based on data recorded by the onboard memory device, Mir, the module separation occurred at an altitude of about 150 km (some sources say 168 km) and lasted just 0.06 seconds. The pressure in the descent module began to fall rapidly at that moment. At a. m., two seconds prior to jettisoning the orbital module, the pressure in the descent module was 915 mm of mercury, which was normal. But some 115 seconds later the pressure had dropped to 50 mm, and was still falling. In effect, there was no longer any air in the cabin! In fact, the book relating the history of RKK Energiya (as the TsKBEM later became) states that the pressure fell even more rapidly than this, reaching near-zero in only 30-45 seconds.

Decompression could result from two causes: (1) the premature opening of one of two valves located at the top of the descent module, or (2) leakage from the hatch. Mishin presented diagrams featuring curves corresponding to these two modes of decompression. The curve calculated for a loss of pressure due to the valve opening exactly matched the actual loss of pressure recorded by the ‘black box’. In addition, the force resulting from the air venting from this valve upset the stabilisation of the module, which prompted the automated control system to fire six 10-kg thrusters to compensate. The thruster firings calculated on the assumption that the air was being vented matched those recorded by the ‘black box’. The maximum deceleration load of 3.3 g was recorded when the descent module reached an altitude of about 40 km, where the atmosphere began to thicken. At this point, air began to enter through the inadvertently opened valve. The second valve was automatically opened as planned, at an altitude of about 5 km. Although the cabin rapidly filled with fresh air, it was too late for the cosmonauts.

The conclusion was inescapable: one of the two valves had opened prematurely as the orbital module was jettisoned. The possibility of an incorrect command could be discarded because both valves were on the same electric circuit. Based on the 2-cm size of the valve’s tube, the internal volume of the descent module, and the fact that the air would have passed through the valve at the speed of sound, the time for the pressure to diminish to near-zero was calculated at 50-60 seconds. If Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev had been wearing pressure suits they would not have been in danger, but the Soyuz was a ‘shirt-sleeve environment’ and so they became the first men to die in space.

For the State Commission, two facts relating to the tragedy of Soyuz 11 crew were of crucial importance: spacesuits and valves. The decision to send cosmonauts into space without pressure suits had been taken years earlier. To create a ‘spectacular’ for Khrushchov, in early 1964 Korolev had ordered Feoktistov to adapt the Vostok spacecraft to accommodate three men, and in order to create the impression that this was an entirely new vehicle it was to be named Voskhod. As there was insufficient room for three men dressed in the pressure suits worn by the Vostok cosmonauts, it was decided that the crew should wear casual clothing. During a meeting on this issue Korolev said that working in the spacecraft in a pressure suit was as uncomfortable as working inside a submarine wearing a wet suit. Furthermore, to fit three couches into the capsule, it was necessary to discard the ejector seats, so the Voskhod crews were the first to be launched with no means of escape if their rocket were to have a malfunction during the first 27 second of its flight. Feoktistov was initially doubtful, but led the modification when Korolev promised that one of the designers could be a member of the first Voskhod crew. Because the descent module of the three-seat Soyuz was not much larger than the old spherical capsule, it was likewise designed for use without pressure suits.1 In March 1964 Korolev advised Khrushchov of the possibility of sending a three-man crew into space. The American Apollo that was to be capable of carrying three astronauts was not expected to start flying until late 1966, so Khrushchov eagerly accepted Korolev’s proposal; he was unperturbed that the cosmonauts would fly without pressure suits – for him the most important thing was once again to beat the Americans.

During Korolev’s lifetime, only Kamanin had sharply objected to this idea. In fact, he had attempted to force a return to the use of pressure suits. On 5 and 7 July 1971 he made the following entries in his diary expressing his disappointment:

Cosmonauts and the Air Force specialists insisted many times both verbally and in writing to the Central Committee of the Communist Party on the need to have on the ship pressure suits and equipment to pump air. But they were always refused – over a period of seven years! Responding to our requests, Mishin several times said that we were overcautious, that the decompression of the Soyuz spacecraft is completely excluded, meaning that “it is possible to fly [on it] in shorts’’.

The crews of our ships have flown without pressure suits for seven years. Cosmonauts have written to Khrushchov, Brezhnyev, Ustinov and Smirnov about the danger of such flights. Kutakhov sent a letter to Mishin concerning the fact that cosmonauts “fly in shorts’’, with a request to have pressure suits on board. But all our requests were refused – first by Korolev and in recent years by Mishin, who said that hundreds of unmanned satellites and piloted spacecraft have flown in space without a single case of decompression.

In the early phase of the Soyuz programme Mishin’s responsibilities were related to rocketry; he had very little involvement in the design of manned space vehicles. When he succeeded Korolev as the Chief Designer in 1966 the development of the Soyuz was nearing completion. It would have been possible to modify it to accommodate a crew wearing pressure suits, but only by eliminating one of the couches.[106] [107] Korolev’s fundamental error, with the active

support of Feoktistov, was to have designed the spacecraft for use without pressure suits. As Feoktistov said 24 years after the loss of the Soyuz 11 cosmonauts, “the feeling of guilt persists”. The second major error was the decision not to install the tanks which would have supplied additional air to the crew in the event of a decompression. This was accepted by Mishin despite the protests of General Kamanin and the specialists at the TsPK. Interestingly, no one at the OKB-1/TsKBEM had the courage early in the design to seriously analyse the risk of flying without pressure suits and then challenge Korolev and Feoktistov.

Later, in one of his interviews, Mishin defended Korolev’s decision by saying that during over 1,000 tests of the descent module there had been no problems relating to decompression. Noting that for decades hermetically sealed aircraft have flown at altitudes of 10 km or greater carrying crew and passengers wearing casual clothes rather than pressure suits, Mishin said: “I think Korolev’s decision was correct, and that after this it was necessary to focus attention not on individual protection, but on the protection of the entire module – on group protection. Our idea was to develop such a robust hermetic unit that we would not need a backup for each element.’’

While the descent module was at the landing site, it was established to be pressure tight. On its arrival in Moscow it was examined by experts from the TsKBEM. The hypothesis that a valve had been inadvertently opened when the orbital module was jettisoned looked good on paper, but despite being subjected to powerful shocks and vibrations the valves remained shut. The fortnight deadline allowed by the Kremlin for the investigation expired without such tests validating the hypothesis that on this occasion there had been an unexpectedly severe shock associated with the release of the orbital module. Later, Academician Keldysh pointed out that since the tests had been done in normal atmospheric conditions the forces would have been diffused by the air, and he suggested that the separation of the modules should be simulated in vacuum in an altitude chamber. Two tests were made in the TsPK, but in both cases the valves remained shut. Undeterred by this ‘proof’ of the design of the valves, the specialists devised tests involving incorrectly configured valves in an effort to gain insight into the issue. Tests that applied a variety of individual loads and modes of malfunction to the valve failed to open it. However, when these were all applied simultaneously, the valve opened. With this proof that it was possible for the valve to be shocked open, the premature opening of the valve during the separation of the modules of Soyuz 11 was officially accepted as the cause of the decompression.

On 10 July 1971, while the tests were underway, the State Commission released a 200-word statement. After pointing out that the flight of Soyuz 11 was normal until the onset of re-entry, it went on: ‘‘On the ship’s descent trajectory, 30 minutes prior to landing, a rapid drop of pressure occurred in the descent module leading to the sudden deaths of the cosmonauts. This is verified by the medical and pathological – anatomical examinations. The drop in pressure was the result of a loss of the ship’s hermetic seal. An inspection of the descent module showed there to be no failures in its structure. A technical analysis has determined several possible causes for the loss of the seal. The study of these continues.’’ Incredibly, this is the only report ever to

have been officially released describing the deaths of the Soyuz ЇЇ crew!

The fact that the Commission’s statement said that the cosmonauts died suddenly ЗО minutes prior to landing owing to a pressure leak, whilst also saying there were no failures of the structure, led Western observers to conclude that the cosmonauts must have erred! In fact, two days after the tragedy some Western newspapers had reported an anonymous Soviet journalist who claimed the crew died because “they failed to seal the hatch of their spacecraft properly’’. At week’s end, the Evening News in London reported that Russian scientists attending the funeral had blamed the cosmonauts. Victor Louis, the paper’s Moscow correspondent, wrote: “human error and mechanical failure between them caused creeping depressurisation in the spacemen’s 9-foot cabin and deprived the cosmonauts of life-supporting oxygen during the final phase of their journey’’. During the turbulent re-entry, Louis said, the spacecraft’s hatch had opened sufficiently to allow the air to escape into space. Although there was some basis for this story – the difficulty in sealing the hatch just prior to undocking – the State Commission had ruled out the hatch seal as the cause of the decompression.

The Commission completed its investigation in early August and recommended a number of improvements intended to preclude a repeat of the Soyuz ЇЇ tragedy. At the final meeting, Academician Keldysh pointed out that the “opening of the valve was due to a shock wave propagating across the metal structure of the spacecraft’’, and after noting that “to be simulated it is necessary to perform tens or hundreds of experiments in the altitude chamber’’ he suggested that if the steps proposed by the Commission were adopted then to continue “expensive and complicated tests’’ in an altitude chamber would “not make sense’’.

Interestingly, three of the most important documents about the Soyuz ЇЇ tragedy were not made public, and presumably remain in the archives of either the Kremlin or the TsKBEM. These are:

• The final report of the State Commission, including the individual reports of its subcommissions.

• The data recorded by the ‘black box’ in the descent module prior to, during, and after the separation of the modules.

• The full reports of the autopsies by the Burdenko Military Hospital – even the Ministry of Heath’s Institute for Biomedical Problems, which is the leading space medicine institution in Russia, does not have copies of the autopsy results!

As in the case of Komarov’s death, the Kremlin hid the truth about the Soyuz ЇЇ tragedy from the Soviet people. The fact that Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev died as a result of a valve inadvertently opening was revealed by the Washington Post on 29 October Ї97З – more than two years after the fact! In planning the joint mission during which an Apollo was to dock with a Soyuz in the summer of Ї975, the NASA officials said during a visit to Moscow that they had a need to know what had gone wrong with Soyuz ЇЇ. The Washington Post reported that a vent valve was accidentally forced open, and that the air in the descent module leaked to space in a matter of seconds. The valve had opened just after the orbital module was jettisoned. This procedure involved the firing of explosive bolts, and it was reported that the

shock, which was greater than that expected, had been sufficient to cause the valve to open. Two of the cosmonauts had tried to unstrap from their couches in order to close the valve but had not been able to act fast enough. In ten seconds the cabin pressure was so low that it could no longer support human life. After a further 45 seconds there was no air left at all. Following a period of unconsciousness, the crew died from pulmonary embolisms. The tissue damage to their bodies was due to the boiling of their blood during the 11.5-minute interval that they were exposed to vacuum – a symptom that could at first have been misinterpreted as being indicative of an instantaneous and catastrophic decompression.


Kamanin’s involvement with the space programme began in the best possible way, with the selection and training of the first cosmonauts, including Yuriy Gagarin, the first man to orbit the Earth. It ended with the deaths of Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev. However, during his 11 years as head of cosmonaut training there had been other deaths. In March 1961, shortly before Gagarin’s launch, the young trainee cosmonaut Valentin Bondarenko lost his life as a result of burns from an accidental fire in a pressure chamber that was providing a pure-oxygen atmosphere. Although this occurred in the Institute for Space and Aviation Medicine, which was not under Kamanin’s control, he directed the training regime. For many years Bondarenko’s death remained a secret. And, of course, in 1967 Vladimir Komarov lost his life on impact with the ground after the failure of Soyuz 1’s parachute system. Kamanin announced his attention to retire prior to the Soyuz 11 mission.[135] He was simply fed up of disputes with the leaders of the space programme – first with Korolev, then with Mishin. And it was not only with civilians that he clashed. His relationship with his new boss, Pavel Kutakhov, was far from ideal. Immediately upon taking office in 1969 Kutakhov had decided that Kamanin should be replaced, and it had been decided that cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov would supersede him.

Although Kamanin became a Lieutenant-General at the end of the Second World War, aged 37, it was 22 years before he was promoted to Colonel-General in 1967.

Whereas cosmonauts gained medals and the Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union, he was persistently bypassed, even when space flights in which he played a key role were successful. But on his death he was laid to rest bearing the Hero of the Soviet Union which he received in 1934 for risking his life to save the passengers of the icebreaker Chelyuskin.

Kamanin was highly critical of the manner in which the Soviet space programme was directed. He particularly criticised the men who “pulled the strings” behind the scenes. In his celebrated diary, published as Hidden Space,[136] he sharply criticised Korolev for underestimating the role of cosmonauts in piloting a spacecraft, and for wasting time during the development of the Soyuz spacecraft automating its control and guidance systems. He also criticised the decision that cosmonauts should cease to wear pressure suits. Finally, he constantly battled with Mishin for the selection of crews. His relationship with the cosmonauts was sometimes very formal and harsh, but he displayed an affinity for some of the first group, especially Gherman Titov.

Kamanin’s family life was also marked by tragedy – his son was lost in an aircraft crash. Although after retirement he played no further role in the space programme he sometimes visited Zvyozdniy, which he had done so much to create, to take part in celebrations involving the cosmonauts. He died on 11 March 1982 at the age of 74, and was buried in Novadevechye Cemetery in Moscow.

SPACE BIRTHDAY Day 13, Friday, 18 June

On the second day after the fire the mood of the cosmonauts noticeably improved. Volkov and Patsayev even gave a 5-minute TV report in which they showed some of the scientific equipment – in particular demonstrating how the enormous bulk of the solar telescope dominated the compartment. They also talked about monitoring the Earth from the station. Of course, by this point they had removed all evidence of smoke, and at no time did they refer to the fire. Watching the broadcast, Kamanin noted a “discordance” between the tired unshaven faces of the cosmonauts and the impressive background of the solar telescope.

On direction from Chertok, the controllers read to the crew the plan for switching on the apparatus. One by one all the medical equipment and several of the scientific instruments were reactivated. All worked normally. The scientists were keen for the remaining apparatus to be reactivated in order to resume the scientific investigations but Yeliseyev and Tregub, who was now at the TsUP, with the support of Chertok in Kaliningrad, decided to await a comprehensive analysis as to which of the various investigations should be continued.

After a brief medical check, Patsayev resumed using the Orion telescope to study stars in the ultraviolet.

7.24 a. m.

Patsayev: “Can you hear me well? The Orion experiment was performed at the planned time: the second regime, the second star on map No. 3. I started working at 6.34 and the timer was started at 6.45. Exposures of 10, 30, 90 and 270 [seconds] were made. I will determine the rewind time and let you know later. All indicators changed colour: green, orange and white. As for the rest, it was all normal. Report finished.”

Zarya: “Yantar 3, continue. The Control Group appreciate you resuming normal work.”

Dobrovolskiy: “Yes, he is happy too.”

Zarya: “Yantar 3, a reminder: don’t forget to check the No. 5 panel for the control of the scientific apparatus before the start of the second part of the experiment.”

Patsayev: “I won’t forget. I prepared it earlier. I cleaned the porthole and the glass of the visor. All is normal.’’

Zarya: “Excellent, excellent. According to preliminary results, everyone is happy with the first part of the experiment.’’

Patsayev: “Yes, it wasn’t bad. We are happy too. The object was held stable, and the automatic system worked well.’’

1.21 p. m.

Patsayev: “I’m reporting the situation with the Orion. The third star went well except that we could not finish the final exposure planned for 810 seconds owing to the sunrise; it was just 720 seconds, f had to cut it short because of the glare from an illuminated antenna, The remainder of the operation was normal,”

Zarya: “Understood, Yantar 3, Thank you for the information,”

Patsayev: “You’re welcome,”

Zarya: “Yantar 3, as we aren’t going to be on duty tomorrow, Happy Birthday from the Control Group,’’

Patsayev: “Thank you, thank you,’’

Zarya: “We wish you all the best, The others are preparing greetings for tomorrow, Most sincere greetings to you,’’

Patsayev: “Thank you,’’

Zarya: “All of you should have a tube of juice tomorrow, to make a toast,’’ Patsayev: “But there is no glass,’’

Zarya: “We hope Yantar 2 will find something for this occasion, See you later,’’

At 2,30 p, m, Salyut began its 182nd orbit in its manned regime,

ft had been intended that on 20 June the cosmonauts would observe the launch from Baykonur of the third N1 lunar rocket in order to test the Svinetz instrument that the military had designed to detect intercontinental ballistic missiles, but on 18 June the launch was delayed, initially to 22 June, then later to 27 June, which ruled out the possibility of the cosmonauts making the observation since on that day the station would not pass over the cosmodrome, However, Kamanin confirmed that the plan for them to observe night launches of solid-propellant missiles from Baykonur would proceed, Meanwhile, Mishin had flown to the cosmodrome to supervise the preparations for the N1 launch, The postponement meant that he would not be able to fly from Baykonur to Yevpatoriya until a few days before the planned end of the Soyuz 11 mission,

10.19 p. m.

Volkov: “f have just awakened, f slept for about seven hours, f slept well, and feel well, The others are now resting,’’

Zarya: “Where are the others sleeping? fn the working compartment?’’

Volkov: “Yes, Again on the floor, next to the filters, They support themselves on both sides by their legs, and sleep,’’

From Patsayev’s notebook:

Here, we don’t need legs – we swim like fish in an aquarium, Loose objects will float out of reach if you don’t attach them to something, Untidy people are not welcome in space! There are interesting differences to being on the Earth – for example to drink water, to eat, in movement, with clothing, and with sleeping, Here, we must learn everything afresh, , , , Weightlessness is both good and bad, ft is good when working with instruments, and facilitates easier movement, But the return to gravity will be difficult, fn the future we will need spacecraft with artificial gravity,

Although the Soviet press resumed their familiar routine of reportage on 18 June, the radio monitors at the Kettering Grammar School in England detected telemetry on the Soyuz 11 frequency – the first such transmissions since 9 June – indicating that for some unannounced reason the cosmonauts had powered up their ferry.[85]

Day 14, Saturday, 19 June

The birthday of Viktor Patsayev on 19 June further relieved the stress on the crew. They performed medical examinations and operated such scientific apparatus as the TsUP permitted. In fact, the Control Group had decided to scale down the scientific experiments, prohibit the communication of unnecessary information, and gradually increase the physical exercise regime in preparation for the return to Earth.

Several times during the day, the cosmonauts were moved from one experiment to another. They were physicians, biologists, astronomers and meteorologists, and the scientists back on Earth were keen for the results. Astronomers wanted observations from above the atmosphere of cosmic radiation that would provide information on how the universe was structured. Physicians and biologists wanted to know how the human body and other organisms reacted to long-term exposure to space – both in terms of weightlessness and the radiation environment. Physicists wanted to know how various materials behaved – fluids, for example, display interesting properties in weightlessness. Technologists wanted to know if it would be possible to create a whole new range of materials possessing unique attributes. When Salyut was being designed the Academy of Sciences had suggested that a scientist be included in the crew, the logic being that only a scientist could analyse the results of an experiment in space and suggest a procedure to follow up an interesting observation. However, because a commander and a flight engineer were required to operate the station, and the Soyuz could accommodate a maximum of three cosmonauts, there was room for only one researcher on the crew. It was therefore decided that the third member of each crew should be a professional cosmonaut who had been trained as a researcher and investigator – which is why Patsayev’s role on the crew was ‘research cosmonaut’. The scientific programme was developed by the scientists, who spent a great deal of time explaining how to use the apparatus and how to analyse the results. In addition, senior representatives for each scientific investigation were permitted access to the TsUP, and there was a special radio channel between the scientists and the station’s crew to enable the scientists to discuss the performance of their experiments and to offer the cosmonauts advice. Although the scientists and the crew worked together closely, the cosmonauts never spoke the surnames of the scientists on the radio for security reasons. When an experiment was successful, the contented scientists were often able to exit the TsUP with graphs and tables. If a problem developed, then the scientists would retire to attempt to understand the failure and devise a remedy for the next opportunity. Despite some frustrations, the experience gained in attempting to undertake a scientific programme on an orbital station was priceless. Sometimes a modification of the apparatus or a revised operating procedure was suggested for a future flight. In some cases, it was concluded that the work would be better done by an automated satellite – for example, once a telescope had been precisely aligned on a celestial source, the observation could be marred by the vibration of the station in response to the cosmonauts moving around. But, on the other hand, there was merit in testing new apparatus on a manned station to ensure that it worked properly prior to assigning it to an automated satellite.

Volkov and Patsayev conducted a multispectral optical study of the atmosphere at sunrise and sunset – each of which occurred in orbit every 90 minutes, providing a wealth of data. During this experiment they established the diversity in colour of the atmospheric upper layers during sunset and sunrise, and its correlation with aerosol particles. At 2.58 p. m., when the station flew over the northwestern coast of Africa, the cosmonauts saw a vast sand storm. In addition, they placed the station into solar orientation and checked the accuracy of the gyroscopes after such a prolonged time in space.

Continuing their medical programme, the cosmonauts made further measure­ments of their cardiovascular systems and bone density. They also assessed the ability of their eyes to differentiate colours in order to determine the degree to which the eye is affected by weightlessness.

Conditions inside the station were normal: the temperature was 22°C, the pressure was 880 mm of mercury, and the smell of smoke had cleared.

7.13 a. m.

Zarya: “We all send Happy Birthday greetings to Viktor Ivanovich. We wish him successful work.”

Patsayev: “Thank you.”

Zarya: “We hope that the commander will organise a party.”

Dobrovolskiy: “We offered him a day of rest apart from physical exercise, but he has so much technical work.”

Then, after a pause, Dobrovolskiy reported: “We performed photography of the twilight horizon. When the Sun appeared, a small part, less than half of its disk, was visible. We took pictures of it.”

10.19 a. m.

Zarya: “Yantar 3, again we all send our greetings on your birthday – we wish you a successful flight and happiness in your life. Your family sends their most sincere wishes.”

Patsayev: “Thank you for your greetings. Although you are far away from us, we always feel your support.”

Patsayev’s 38th birthday was the first birthday to be celebrated in space. Knowing the recent crisis and tensions between the members of the crew, the psychologists at the TsUP had prepared a special programme. Patsayev’s wife and children were in the communication centre in Kaliningrad, watching the TV signal from the station.

With them was the famous TV anchor, Yuriy Fokin. The communication officer at the TsUP was Nikolayev.

Nikolayev: “How is the table prepared?”

Patsayev: “The table is prepared excellently: cold veal, cookies and blackberry juice in tubes.”

Nikolayev: “Did you find the bottle?” He was referring to the traditional bottle of celebratory champagne.

Patsayev (laughing): “No, we didn’t. We looked for the bottle everywhere, but we couldn’t find it. The delicacy was the onion, which was a present from Vadim. We sliced it into three parts and shared it. Zhora’s present was lemon.’’

The onion and lemon were smuggled on board by Volkov especially for the first birthday in orbit. The TV viewers could see the table set with tubes of juice, cheese, fruits, nuts and cans of veal. The items were held in place by tapes across the table. Patsayev sat at the table and Dobrovolskiy and Volkov floated in the background, smiling happily. Not having champagne glasses, they toasted loudly with the plum juice tubes. Patsayev said that of his presents he most enjoyed the onion, which was the first ‘fresh’ food that any of them had tasted since entering space.

His son Dmitriy recalls: ‘‘We were invited to the communication centre and had a chance to talk with dad, but only for a brief time. I don’t really remember what we said – I was 13 years old and there were many interesting devices in the room that distracted me. However, I do remember that Dobrovolskiy and Volkov presented an onion to him.’’

Svetlana Patsayeva, even younger, remembers the visit only by what her mother

‘‘Did you find the bottle?’’ asked General Nikolayev (right) as Patsayev celebrates his birthday in orbit.

told her: “The crew were given congratulations from their friends and relatives. And there was music too. Our friends especially asked that our father’s favourite song be played. Previously, the people on the ground had recorded the congratulations from our family. They brought me home from Young Pioneers’ camp for this. Someone came to our home with the equipment to record our words, me playing the piano (in fact, I was just starting to learn music, and my playing was not very good), and the sounds of our parrot.’’

After the communication session Patsayev’s friends gathered in his apartment in Moscow, where his wife, Vera, had prepared a celebratory lunch. It was an unusual birthday party, as the person being honoured was not present. Someone had a bottle of French champagne, but it was decided to defer opening it until Viktor was home. A note was affixed to the bottle bearing the signatures of all the attendees, together with the message: ‘Vitya, you were searching for this bottle in space, but it was here on Earth.’

From Dobrovolskiy’s notebook:

19 June. Viktor’s birthday. His wife sent a greeting letter with the words: ‘‘Mum has arrived, she is feeling well.’’ Viktor was so impassioned.

From Volkov’s diary:

19 June. Today is Viktor’s birthday. We laid the table. The onion was a real delicacy. Zarya gave him their greetings. The Earth asked for a report.

21.30. Start my duty. I will be the first to see the globe instrument indicate ‘1,000 orbits’. This historic event will occur during my time on duty. Simply unbelievable.

I slept at the new place, which is similar to the roomette in a wagon.[86] For the last two days I have slept well – about eight hours. Tomorrow we expect the radio programme With Good Morning to be transmitted.

So, with the stress of the fire behind him, Volkov was once again sleeping well.