Category Salyut – The First Space Station


Day 17, Tuesday, 22 June

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

2.01 a. m.

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

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

6.41 a. m.

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

Then the cosmonauts made another telecast.

Television Report:

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

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

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

A cyclone seen from Salyut.

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

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

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

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

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

Zarya-25: “Which ones?”

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

Zarya-25: “Are they growing?”

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

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

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

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

From Dobrovolskiy’s notebook:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 18, Wednesday, 23 June

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

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

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

From Volkov’s diary:

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

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

Day 19, Thursday, 24 June

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

3.09 a. m.

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

From Patsayev’s notebook:

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

7.33 a. m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.29 p. m.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


The empire that Chelomey had spent many years building up began to decay when Ustinov became the Minister of Defence in 1976. As Ustinov did not wish to have two institutions working on manned space projects, Branch No. 1 of the TsKBM at Fili was transferred to NPO Energiya.[129] It was therefore ironic that whereas Mishin had sought to offload the DOS programme to Chelomey, Almaz was removed from Chelomey and handed to the TsKBEM’s successor! However, later Fili became KB Salyut, and eventually joined the Khrunichev Centre.

Vladimir Chelomey. The DOS design was derived from his Almaz reconnaissance station.

After Ustinov had left office, work began on an unmanned version of the Almaz, but progress was so protracted that Chelomey did not live to see its completion. He died on 8 December 1984, aged 70. He had been taken to hospital following a car accident, and during medication an artery became blocked. So ended the life of one of the Soviet Union’s greatest designers of missiles and space rockets.


Day 20, Friday, 25 June

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

2.57 a. m.

Zarya: “Are you feeling well?”

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

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

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

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

Dobrovolskiy: “Understood. End of communication.”

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

7.20 a. m.

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

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

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

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

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

Television Report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 21, Saturday, 26 June

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

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

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

From Volkov’s diary:

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

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

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

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

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

10.14 a. m.

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

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

From Volkov’s diary:

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

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

6.41 p. m.

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

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

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

From Dobrovolskiy’s notebook:

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

Earth has provided us with a forced physical exercise regime.

Soon will be landing time!

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

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

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

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

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

Day 22, Sunday, 27 June

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

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

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

2.32 a. m.

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

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

8.27 a. m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dobrovolskiy: “Understood.”

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

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

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

1.42 p. m.

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

Zarya: “Logged.”

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

Television Report

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

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

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

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

Patsayev: “I don’t think so.”

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

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

Day 23, Monday, 28 June

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Pyotr Kolodin, the eternal backup.

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


Let us consider the function of the valve which was the technical cause of the loss of the Soyuz 11 crew. The limited capacity of the launch vehicle obliged Feoktistov and his design team to make the Soyuz descent module a very small vehicle – it is so cramped that it is right on the limit for accommodating the human body. In fact, the bell-shaped module stands 2.16 metres tall, has a maximum diameter at its base of 2.2 metres and weighs only 2.8 tonnes. Yet it had to contain couches for three cosmonauts and all the necessary life-support equipment, together with the systems to operate the spacecraft in space and two large parachutes for landing. The ‘free volume’ of the cabin is a mere 2.5 cubic metres, which is less room per cosmonaut than the Vostok capsule! The air in such a cramped module can support the lives of three men for only a short time – but this is viable because it operates autonomously only for the 30 minutes from the separation of the orbital and propulsion modules through re-entry and landing. Nevertheless, once the main parachute deployed at an altitude of approximately 5 km, two valves were to be opened to allow fresh air to enter the cabin; both to equalise the internal and external pressures and to eliminate the risk of the cosmonauts asphyxiating in the event of their having to remain inside for some time after landing, as might occur if the hatch were unable to be opened as a result of a technical problem or if the module were to land in water and the hatch was partially submerged.

The fact that both valves are closed during the majority of the mission and then opened only a few minutes prior to landing confused the State Commission. Surely the recovery team would open the hatch promptly, or if the module landed off target the cosmonauts would open it themselves! Given that the premature opening of one of the valves caused the deaths of three cosmonauts, what where the valves actually for? Was their inclusion a terrible error by the designers? The explanation from the TsKBEM of the risk of asphyxiation if for some reason the hatch was unable to be opened promptly was inconclusive. An additional confusion concerned the fact that each valve had two shutters. In fact, this aspect of the design would prove to be one of the most important factors in the Soyuz 11 tragedy.

To understand what happened, we must examine the valve’s structure. The design was straightforward, involving a cylinder of cork with a rubber ring and a piston rod supported by a ball-lock shutter that was automatically controlled. The crew had no

The valve 303

control over the automatic shutter, which would be opened by a pair of pyrotechnic charges after the deployment of the main parachute. Next to the automatic shutter was one that the cosmonauts could open manually by a small rotating knob. So long as at least one shutter remained closed, the valve ought to be shut. The valves were placed below the ring of the hatch: the No. 1 valve above Dobrovolskiy’s couch and the No. 2 valve above Patsayev’s couch, on opposite sides of the hatch so that if the module were to land on water there would be no chance of both of the valves being submerged. In the event of a splashdown, the manual shutters would be operated as required to prevent water ingress. This was the only circumstance in which the crew were to operate the manual shutters.

Why did the automatic valve open at an altitude of approximately 150 km, rather than at 5 km? The orbital and descent modules were connected by a dozen bolts in the ring that housed the hatch. During the assembly of the spacecraft, the bolts had been fastened using a special tool, then the joint was checked in an altitude chamber to ensure a hermetic seal. The combined force of all the bolts was about 100 tonnes. To separate the modules in space, the bolts had to be severed simultaneously. Hence each bolt incorporated a small explosive charge and an electric circuit. According to the programme, a timer would cause electricity to be supplied to the bolts in order to detonate the explosive charges and sever the bolts, applying a force of 100 tonnes for

At the top of the Soyuz cabin is the hatch, with one of the ventilation valves visible under its ring on the right, next to a black box. (From the book Soyuz – A Universal Spacecraft, courtesy Rex Hall)

a duration of one microsecond, in the process sending a shock wave across the metallic surface of the craft. The valves were located close alongside the connecting ring, and so would have been particularly sensitive to the propagation of this shock. In the case of Soyuz 11 this caused an automatic valve to pop open. The fact that particles of gunpowder were found inside one valve was conclusive proof that it had opened at the moment of separation.

SPACE ASTROPHYSICS Day 6: Friday, 11 June

The crew began multispectral observations, both of the optical characteristics of the atmosphere and of Soviet territory in order to provide scientists with unique data about certain locations, including lakes.

In addition, the Anna-III gamma-ray telescope was used to make the first such astronomical studies from a manned spacecraft.[73] Volkov aligned the station to point the telescope at its target and then activated the automatic stabilisation system. Then Dobrovolskiy activated the apparatus to measure the energy spectrum of the gamma rays. The instrument consisted of several scintillation counters and one Cherenkov counter for measuring gamma rays, a pair of neon-filled spark chambers equipped with cameras, and a control panel. The gamma-ray telescope had a detector area of 90 cm2, drew 14 watts of power and was sensitive to radiation at energies exceeding 100 MeV (million electron volts) with an angular resolution of 1 degree, which was twice as good as instruments previously flown on unmanned satellites. Overall, the 45-kg Anna-III apparatus measured 60 x 40 x 45 cm, and included a tape cassette with a capacity of 20,000 images.

In effect, the Salyut crew were the first space astronomers. Gamma-ray astronomy had only recently become feasible, and was giving insights into the structure of the universe. Gamma rays are the most energetic form of light. They are produced by fusion reactions in the cores of stars, but are soon absorbed and so stars appear dark in this part of the electromagnetic spectrum. However, they are emitted by violent events such as a supernovas (when a massive star ‘explodes’) and by the much less dramatic decay of radioactive elements in space. Objects like supernova remnants, black holes, neutron stars and pulsars are all sources of celestial gamma rays. In addition, there are powerful ‘flashes’ known as gamma-ray bursts which can release more energy in a few seconds than the Sun will emit during its entire 10- billion-year lifetime! The exact cause of such bursts is disputed, and there may in fact be several causes. Thus far it would seem that all of the bursts originate from outside

The Anna-Ill telescope to detect gamma rays.

our own galaxy, but it is conceivable that they might occur in our Milky Way once in every few million years, with one located within several thousand light-years of the Earth once every few hundred million years. By solving the mystery of gamma-ray bursts, scientists hope to develop further insight into the origin of the universe, the rate at which it is expanding, and its size.

The thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere is approximately equivalent to 10 metres of water, so gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared radiations from space are absorbed. When the highly energetic atomic nuclei of cosmic rays interact with the atmosphere they generate gamma rays, but these too are absorbed. It is therefore not possible to undertake gamma-ray astronomy at ground level; it must be done at high altitude using instruments on balloons or, better still, on satellites.

The cosmonauts used the Anna-III to:

• determine the telescope’s basic operational capabilities;

• investigate how the gamma-ray flux varied with directions in space; and

• correlate such observations with the flux of charged and neutral particles both directly entering the station and as secondary products in the station.

The Anna-III telescope detected gamma rays and charged particles as the station was rotated and stabilised relative to the Sun. In total, it was operated for 20 hours under the control of one cosmonaut.

The main astrophysical experiment on Salyut was the Orion telescope, which was in the transfer compartment. It had two mirrors, one 28 cm in diameter and the other 5 cm in diameter, and a focal length of 1.4 metres. The instrument was designed to make spectrograms of stars in the range 2,000-3,800 angstroms.[74] At a wavelength of about 2,600 angstroms it could provide a resolution of 5 angstroms. The tracking system allowed the telescope to maintain its orientation to within one second of arc. The spectrograms were recorded in the form of photographs on 16-mm tape bearing UFSH-4 emulsion. An airlock and mechanical arm allowed a cosmonaut to replace the film cassettes. The mirrors were coated with aluminium, without protection, to enable them to be re-surfaced if they ever became tarnished by micrometeoroids. To use the instrument, one man (usually Dobrovolskiy) controlled the orientation of the station while Patsayev, who was responsible for this research, aimed the telescope. Patsayev had to operate the system quickly because there was only a 30-35-minute period on each orbit during which observations could be made – this being while in the Earth’s shadow. Dobrovolskiy, sitting at the central control panel, oriented the station as specified by Patsayev in the transfer compartment with the Orion. When the target star was visible to the telescope, the station was stabilised and Patsayev started the observation. During the mission he obtained six spectrograms of the star Agena (beta Centauri) in the southern sky and nine of Vega (alpha Lyra) in the north. In fact, Vega is the ‘standard star’ for spectral analysis of other stars. These stars were selected because of their extremely high surface temperatures (10,000°C in the case of Vega and 24,000°C for Agena). Once an investigation was completed, Volkov used the airlock manipulator to retrieve the cassette of tape and to replace it with another one.

Salyut also had the FEK-7 photo-emulsion camera with a volume of 1.4 litres for detecting the charged particles of primary cosmic rays. The majority of cosmic rays are protons and alpha particles (helium nuclei), but there can also be much heavier nuclei. A precise knowledge of their fluxes as a function of energy was important for several reasons. Interstellar spectra can provide information about how cosmic rays are propagated and accelerated in the galaxy. In principle, this can be derived from measurements made in the upper atmosphere by demodulating the observed solar spectrum. Since protons and helium nuclei have different momenta and kinetic energies per nucleon, the comparison of their spectra provides useful constraints for modulation and acceleration theories.

The FEK-7 camera was designed to search for:

• magnetic monopoles (single magnetic charges; Dirac particles);

• trans-uranium and uranium nuclei in primordial cosmic rays, important for global astrophysics and the determination of the distribution of the sources of cosmic rays; and

• anti-nuclei and trans-nuclei to investigate the symmetry between matter and anti-matter.

Finding such particles would have important implications for theoretical physics. Similar cameras had been flown on the unmanned satellite Cosmos 213, on Zonds 5,

The Orion astrophysical telescope.

7 and 8 flying circumlunar trajectories and on the Soyuz 5 mission, but in each case data was able to be collected only for short periods. The FEK-7 on Salyut operated for 17 hours 28 minutes. It was placed in the descent module of Soyuz 11 for return to Earth and analysis by specialists.

Another project was to determine the intensity of charged particles in the altitude range 200-300 km (where the station flew) because this radiation appeared to have been increasing since I960. It had even been proposed that this region was occupied by clouds of electrons possessing energies as great as 300-600 MeV. When the Sun is active it can suddenly release vast numbers of charged particles, and following a major ‘flare’ the increased radiation can linger in the inner heliosphere (where the Earth is located) for up to a month. The Earth’s magnetic field provides a degree of protection, but even in low orbit a high flux of such particles can cause damage to both electronic and biological systems. During the flight, the crew performed more than 60 operations related to the measurement of charged particles. The instrument used was able to detect protons with energies of 400 MeV and electrons exceeding 8 MeV. The observed electron flows were several hundred times less intense than those previously measured by the Cosmos 225 satellite.

At 1.06 p. m. on 11 June Salyut left the communication zone of the NIP stations, but the ship Academician Sergey Korolev in the North Atlantic was able to continue to communicate with it. The final experiment of the day was to investigate optical materials that had been exposed to the space environment. Before the crew retired, Yevpatoriya relayed through a Molniya satellite and Academician Sergey Korolev to congratulate them on their successful work so far.

3.47 p. m.

Zarya: “Yantars, the Control Group wishes to thank you for your work during the last days. Have a nice rest, and start the next work day in a good mood.” Volkov: “Thank you. It is nice to hear that. If tomorrow we feel we did like today, then everything will be well.”

From Volkov’s diary:

11 June. A very full programme today. It shouldn’t be planned in that way, if you consider adaptation to the conditions aboard the station. The rubbish bags should be redesigned in order to avoid spending so much time opening and closing the hermetic seal.


As the last of the Pleiades of extraordinary members of Soviet rocketry, they called Chertok a patriarch of cosmonautics. For two decades (1946-1966) he worked with Sergey Korolev. He directed the department which developed guidance systems and their associated electronics. From 1966 until 1973 he was a member of the Chief Operative and Control Group at the TsUP in Yevpatoriya. He was also one of the men who in 1969 approached Ustinov behind Mishin’s back and thereby started the DOS programme. Without Chertok’s willingness to embark on such a major project without his boss’s support, and to continue with it despite his boss’s open antipathy, the history of the Soviet manned space programme would certainly have turned out very differently.

On Mishin’s dismissal in 1974, Chertok was the first of the TsKBEM’s senior people to meet the new director – doing so several days prior to Glushko’s official

Boris Chertok, one of the leading figures in the Soviet rocket and space era.

appointment. On Glushko’s death in 1989 Yuriy Semyonov took over, and in 1992 Chertok became an advisor to Semyonov. Although at the time of Semyonov’s retirement Chertok was 95, he continued as the principal scientific consultant to Nikolay Sevastyanov, one of his former students, who took over the directorship of RKK Energiya (as NPO Energiya had become) in 2005.[130] Even after 60 years in the business he continued to work, and lectured at the N. E. Bauman University and at the Physics and Technical Institute.[131] His memoirs, in four volumes entitled Rockets and People,[132] provide a unique insight into the development of the Soviet rocket and space programmes.


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

Day 24, Tuesday, 29 June

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

4.49 p. m.

Zarya: ‘‘Hello.’’

Volkov: ‘‘Good morning.’’

Zarya: ‘‘How are you feeling?’’

Volkov: “Good.”

Zarya: “And your mood?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.25 p. m.

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

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

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

Volkov: “Separation achieved. Separation achieved.’’

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

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

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

Day 25, Wednesday, 30 June

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

0. 16 a. m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zarya: ‘‘Yes, it is.’’

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

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

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

Specific references

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

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

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

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