Category Salyut – The First Space Station


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.

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 Kamanin, Yeliseyev, Shatalov, Mishin, Feoktistov, Afanasyev, Kerimov, Karas, Vorobyev, Severin and others travelled to the landing site, their route took them to Aktyubinsk, the hometown of Patsayev. On arriving at Dzhezkazgan’s airport, they were told that General Goreglyad had already organised the transport of the bodies to Moscow. From Dzhezkazgan the group flew in two helicopters to the landing site on the steppe, arriving at 4.00 p. m., whereupon the members of the recovery team recounted the day’s events.

Yeliseyev emotionally described the scene:

The module was on its side with the hatch open. The guys had already been transported away. One of the doctors reported that it was clear that there had been a decompression, and their blood had boiled. The doctors attempted to transfuse blood, but to no effect. When they opened the hatch, the guys were

“It is intolerably painful!” 279

still warm, but gradually… hopes faded. … It is intolerably painful. What an absurdity! A flat field, excellent weather, the module in good condition, and the guys dead. And suddenly something struck me as an electric shock: was it the hatch? Might this be my fault? But they had checked the seal! Might it be something that they had not seen? … I will not try to describe what I felt at that moment.

Shatalov and I went to the descent module to fill in the form describing its state on landing. The module was immediately surrounded by the military to prevent anyone approaching it without permission. The first thing I observed was the fountain pen. After my flight I had presented Viktor Patsayev with my pen “for good luck”. Now it was lying on the sand – evidently it fell out of his pocket when they pulled him out. In my head flashed a recollection of how we arrived at my home with Vadim and Victor after the meeting of the Military – Industry Commission which established their crew. We were happy, and sang songs. When saying goodnight I gave Viktor my pen. … And here it is – the end of the dreams and the plans. …

We inspected everything, inside and outside, and wrote our observations: everything was normal. Then they took from the descent module the tape recorder on which were the parameters measured during the descent. They sealed this in a special container for transport with the escort to Moscow. It would explain the tragedy. We flew in the same aircraft.

Kamanin provided a less emotional but more detailed account of the visit to the landing site. Although Yeliseyev wrote of the module that “everything was normal”, Kamanin noted the unusual position of one of the valves: “Prior to nightfall, we had time to conduct only a general inspection of the ship, cabin, seats, parachute system, etc. Judging by the results of this inspection, Soyuz 11 performed a soft landing – there was no significant external damage. In the cabin, all the transmitters and all the receivers were switched off. The shoulder straps of Volkov and Patsayev were unfastened, and Dobrovolskiy’s belts were… tight only at the waist. The shutter of one of the two air valves was inverted to 10 mm. There were no other deviations in the cabin.”

About an hour after the group from Yevpatoriya arrived at the landing site, they were joined by specialists from the TsKBEM and the TsPK who flew from Moscow. With this group was Aleksey Leonov, commander of the original Soyuz 11 crew. In his book Two Sides of the Moon, he has written: “When the rescue forces reported that the crew was dead, I was instructed to fly to the landing site immediately with… Vitaliy Sevastyanov.8 We were appointed members of the government committee dealing with the aftermath of the disaster and our main task was to secure the spacecraft and take photographs of the scene. It took us about 3 hours to reach the site, by which time the bodies of the crew had already been removed. Their blood – soaked seats and signs that attempts had been made to resuscitate them, were the only evidence of the tragedy.”

By mistake, here Leonov wrote Yeliseyev’s name.

On the morning of 1 July another group of specialists arrived from Moscow with equipment to test the hermetic seal of the descent module. They closed all openings, including the valve set in the unusual position, and increased the internal pressure above ambient by 100 mm of mercury. When there was no indication of a leak they increased the pressure first to 150 and then to 200, and waited 30 minutes, but again the pressure remained constant. Having established that the decompression was not the result of a meteoroid puncturing the shell of the module, the module was flown to Moscow later that day for a thorough investigation.


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.


After the excitement of the early days, life on board Salyut settled into a routine. As the new technical flight director at the TsUP, Yeliseyev was in charge of operations, supported by veteran cosmonauts Nikolayev, Gorbatko and Bykovs­kiy. Reports on how the flight was progressing were submitted to Kamanin several times per day.

Day 7: Saturday, 12 June

At 0.40 a. m. Salyut again entered the communication zone. The cosmonauts began the day by measuring the radiation in the station, then analysed their cardiovascular systems and tested their eyesight in different illumination conditions. Photography of the Earth’s cloud cover and various atmospheric phenomena completed the day’s scientific work. The crew transmitted another TV show and talked of living in their home in space.

From Volkov’s diary:

12 June. I woke up. I drank water from the new tank; we finished the first one. After Viktor had prepared the vacuum cleaner, I swam through the compartment cleaning it. Zhora is strapped in his seat and diligently writing something in his flight journal.

Viktor has prepared his sleeping place in the hatch between the descent module and the orbital module. Soon we will be in communication with the Earth, but now, according to schedule, I must exercise.

0. 41 a. m.

Patsayev: “We have a suggestion about the medical sensors. It is uncomfortable to wear them all the time. I kept the belt on for three days and the sensors have made indents. Let us make an agreement with you Zarya: tell us when you will be able to receive their telemetry and we’ll put them on during that time, but remove them at other times.’’

Zarya: “We understand. We accept your suggestion.’’

The flight controllers at the TsUP in Yevpatoriya take a break. Cosmonauts Gorbatko, Yeliseyev and Nikolayev are first, second and fourth in the first row.

2.12 a. m.

Dobrovolskiy: “Now it is time to say something about psychology. I think that the psychologists don’t have cause for concern. It is necessary that the three of us take exercise together. In addition, we should do it on a more frequent basis. Firstly, we would be able to encourage one other. … We should force ourselves to do all of the physical exercise.[75] It is necessary to extend the exercise time to approximately 30 minutes. You should plan this to be done by two or three of us – a minimum of two of us. It is better for the work, too.’’

Zarya: “About the exercise, all three of you can exercise for 30-40 minutes.’’

Dobrovolskiy: “All right. Now, about work. All new operations should be planned for the three of us. Only with three of us together could we work with the Polynom sensors and fix problems. It will also be more interesting.”

Zarya: “We understand.”

Dobrovolskiy: “In addition, it would be easier to repeat the operation.’’

Patsayev was complaining about the medical belts they had to wear continuously on their chests. Dobrovolskiy was concerned about the general organisation of their activities. In fact, these complaints marked the onset of psychological tensions – in part irritability arising from the unnatural circadian rhythm, but also due to flaws in mission planning and poor use of the very brief periods of communication with the TsUP.

The plan was for the three cosmonauts to work shifts displaced by 8 hours, and while one man slept his two comrades were to exercise or perform ‘silent’ work. In general, life on board the station was progressing satisfactorily. During the first two days, they prepared apparatus and started some experiments. The need to exercise and perform medical tests meant that the time available for experiments was limited. In addition, a lot of time was devoted to reading instructions, preparing equipment, placing experimental samples into their containers and chambers, recording results and so on. Consequently, only 4 to a maximum of 5.5 hours per day were available for experiments.

The scientific programme for the DOS-1 station had been agreed only after tense discussions between the TsKBEM managers and the representatives of the various scientific institutions. The station carried much more scientific equipment than any previous manned spacecraft. But if the flight was organised inappropriately, and the time was poorly allocated to the different experiments, then the cosmonauts would not be able to use the equipment in the best manner. One instructor had proposed that the cosmonauts read detailed instructions before each experiment to familiarise themselves with the purpose and methodology, and then, when the experiment was completed, read how they were to record their results. All this reading took up a lot of time.

For Yeliseyev, this was a real challenge:

The programme was planned in such a way that all important crew activities would be carried out while the station was in range of the tracking stations. This enabled us to check the status of the onboard systems and, if necessary, provide support to the crew. However, due to the timing of the orbit it was impossible to retain the normal terrestrial duration of 24 hours for the crew, and their cycle was 25 minutes shorter. By saying ‘24 hours’, I don’t mean the duration of the light and dark times in space, because an orbit lasts only 90 minutes; I mean the sleep cycle of the men – in particular, the time from the start of one morning to the start of the next. We thought that they would soon accommodate themselves to the planned circadian rhythm. However, the physicians saw a serious risk. Alyakrinskiy, a biorhythmology specialist from the Institute of Biomedical Problems, came to the control centre in the hope of changing the programme. He wanted to talk to me urgently. At first, I attempted to avoid him: we were busy, the cosmonauts felt well, and I did not see the need to spend time on medical issues. However, he persisted and I saw him. Our conversation was long and difficult. He really understood the essence of the problem and carefully explained it to me. He asserted that the daily deviations of the rhythm of life from the norm would be very difficult for the cosmonauts, and would cause nervous disruption, if not worse. I did not believe him. In any case, it was not realistic to expect us to rearrange the programme at this stage. Therefore, I assured him that there was no problem and refused his request. Finally, he gave up and departed.

Nevertheless, as time went by the psychological stresses on the crew worsened. From Dobrovolskiy’s notebook:

Some days were a nightmare. There was a general absence of everything: no interesting things, no happiness, the monotonous sound of the ventilators, strong smells, numerous experiments. It seemed to me that the TsUP simply wished to test our endurance.[76]

The euphoria of the first days was undermined by the ‘ranking’ of the crew. They shared a general responsibility for the success of the flight and jointly undertook the programme, but by his enthusiasm Volkov, the only veteran on the crew, threatened the authority of Dobrovolskiy, the commander who was used to the discipline of a military chain of command. Initially minor issues grew into more serious ones. The TsUP sensed that the situation on board was abnormal, and attempted delicately to improve it. This was the first long flight of a З-man crew, and the first aboard such a large and complex spacecraft. Previous space missions had not been able to study the psychology of a group of people isolated in a craft in a dangerous environment with a biorhythm significantly different to that on Earth and pursuing a schedule of exercise and experiments. The two cosmonauts for the Soyuz 9 mission who spent 18 days in a cramped Soyuz had trained together for more than a year. However, the Soyuz 11 crew had been formed less than four months ago, had not expected to fly so soon, and had a rookie commander and an ambitious flight engineer with little respect for military authority. While Mishin and Kamanin fought for the prestige of ‘their’ cosmonauts on crews, it was now evident that neither man thought seriously about the psychological issues facing ‘mixed’ crews on long-duration space flights. In particular, when considering whether to replace Kubasov with Volkov in order to allow Leonov’s crew fly this first space station mission, no thought was given to the potential downside of sending Dobrovolskiy’s recently formed crew on such a long flight.

3.44 a. m.

Zarya: ‘‘Yantar 2, conduct photography, monitor the most visible atmospheric phenomenon and let us know.’’

Volkov: ‘‘Well, now we see a bush fire.’’

Zarya: ‘‘Understood. Another request. If possible, report the porthole conditions.

Is it possible to see the stars?”

Volkov: “No, it isn’t. In sunlight the stars are not visible, but they can be seen just before sunset and [of course] before sunrise.’’

Zarya: “Understood.”

Volkov “The portholes are clean…. They are in excellent condition, but some are slightly covered by vapour. The stars are not visible on the daylight side. I made a few observations. Even Jupiter, which is now in the constellation of Scorpio, is not visible.’’

From Patsayev’s notebook:

12 June. At night the stars and the Earth are easily visible. We can see the clouds and the illuminated cities – even fires on Earth. We can see the limb of the planet where it occults the stars. During sunsets and sunrises, the long rays of light illuminate high-altitude clouds. Are the stars visible during the days? It depends on the position of the Sun. At angles of less than about 15 degrees we can see the planets and the brighter stars.

8.11 a. m.

Zarya: “Yantar 2. Another question. Could you work with the experiments and at the same time receive information?’’

Volkov: “Do you understand, everything depends on the time. Now, for example, I am preparing the Polynom. We spent 1 hour 20 minutes on that.’’

Zarya: “Understood.”

Volkov: “The difficulty is that a man is not fixed in the seat. … Everything floats away – as soon as you let go of something it floats away.’’

Television Report:

Zarya-25 (call-sign of Yevgeniy Frolov, the commentator of the Central USSR TV): “On line is the flight engineer, Vladislav Volkov. We know that for you the station is at the same time a laboratory, your home, even a gymnasium. We would like to hear from you a detailed description while making the first TV tour of Salyut. Now from the Earth we are switching to the portable camera. Did you understand us?’’

Volkov: “I understood you very well. I will be pleased to give a tour of the Salyut orbital station. It consists of two segments. The station you can see now, and the Soyuz ship. … In the distance, the Soyuz spacecraft is visible, docked with the station. Notice the size of this station! Now the research engineer is swimming here from the transfer compartment.’’

Zarya-25: “I see him very well.’’

Volkov: “Now I’ll show you the second part of our station. We have our very own sports facility, although admittedly it is not as big as the arena at Luzhniki. Here is a medical seat, the treadmill and handrails. Here is a chamber, some apparatus, the work place of the research engineer and his flight journal and control panel. This is the central control panel – we use it to control the orbital station and the spacecraft at the same time. . . . Now you can see our photographs of Korolev, Gagarin and Lenin. They are always with us in spirit. Now, I’ll show you the docking apparatus. Here is the docking place. Do you have questions? Can you see the docking spot?’’

Zarya-25: “I can see it very well.’’

Volkov: “That is the orbital module. This is the transfer compartment. Here is the sleeping zone. Here we rest.’’

Zarya-25: “We are running out of time. Could Yantar 1 provide a brief summary of the last week?’’

Dobrovolskiy: “Zarya, I can hear you very well. In brief, all the systems of the spacecraft are working excellently, and the crew feels well. We’re ready to continue with the flight programme.’’

While the fixed TV camera monitored their activities, the cosmonauts took their exercises, engaged in numerous scientific experiments, and even cast the first votes from space – affirming their support for the Communist Party’s policies, of course. Excerpts from the broadcasts from Salyut were repeatedly shown on Moscow TV, and owing to his rugged good looks Volkov soon became an idol for many teenage Russian girls.

The hard working day of 12 June, which began at 0.40 a. m., finished at 2.30 p. m. when Salyut left the communication zone of the Soviet ground stations.



The tragedy was revealed to the world in a message released by the Soviet national news agency at 6 a. m. on the 30 June:

TASS reports the deaths of the crew of the spaceship Soyuz 11, Lieutenant – Colonel Georgiy Timofeyevich Dobrovolskiy, Flight Engineer Vladislav Niko­layevich Volkov and Research Engineer Viktor Ivanovich Patsayev.

On 29 June 1971 the crew of the Salyut orbital station fully completed the flight programme, and was directed to make the landing. The cosmonauts transferred the results of their scientific research and logs to the transport spaceship Soyuz 11 for return to Earth. After completing the transition, the cosmonauts took their seats in the Soyuz 11 spaceship, checked the systems and prepared the spaceship for undocking from the Salyut station.

At 21.28 the Soyuz 11 spaceship separated from the Salyut station, and continued its flight separately. The crew of Soyuz 11 reported to Earth that the undocking operation had occurred normally, and that all their systems were functioning normally.

In order to make the descent to Earth, at 01.35 on June 30, after orienting the Soyuz 11 spaceship, the braking engine was fired. This functioned for the required duration. Once the braking manoeuvre had been concluded, all communication with the crew ceased.

In accordance with the automated programme, after aerodynamic braking in the atmosphere the parachute system was operated and the soft-landing engines were fired before landing. The flight of the descent module ended in a smooth landing in the preset area.

A helicopter-borne recovery team landed at the same time as the Soyuz 11 spaceship, and upon opening the hatch found the crew of the spaceship in their couches without any signs of life. The causes of the crew’s deaths are being investigated.

By their selfless work in the testing of sophisticated space equipment – both the first manned orbital station Salyut and the transport ship Soyuz 11 – Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev have made a tremendous contribution to the development of manned orbital flights. The exploits of the courageous cosmonauts Georgiy Timofeyevich Dobrovolskiy, Vladislav Nikolayevich Volkov and Viktor Ivanovich Patsayev will for ever remain in the memory of the Soviet people.

On Moscow TV, the reading of this announcement was followed by portraits of the cosmonauts and the continuous playing of solemn music. It was announced that the space heroes were to be given a full State funeral. The nation was stunned. The deaths of the Soyuz 11 crew shook Moscovites even more than the death of the first man to fly in space, Yuriy Gagarin, in 1968. People wept openly in the streets. For over three weeks the record-breaking flight had been featured on both radio and TV. Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev were not seen as just the latest cosmonauts, but as a crew that had accomplished something really new, had broken records, and had unquestionably demonstrated the Soviet lead in the development of orbital stations. Yet, at the final stage, the victory had been transformed not merely into failure but into an overwhelming tragedy.


As a result of the loss of DOS-3, Raushenbakh was dismissed from his post in charge of the development of systems for the guidance and orientation of vehicles in space, and soon thereafter left the TsKBEM to become a professor at Moscow’s Physics and Technical Institute. This was a natural move, because while working at the TsKBEM he had been a part-time lecturer there. Raushenbakh was one of the most imposing senior personnel at the TsKBEM. In addition to being a theoretician and designer of one of the most complex aspects of rocketry (guidance systems) he was also an academician and a distinguished philosopher and student of religion. He had a friendly relationship with Korolev that started before the Second World War. In view of his German roots, he was committed to a concentration camp, as indeed was Korolev for a short period. After Stalin’s death in 1953 Raushenbakh joined the Central Scientific Research Institute (TsNIIMash) created by Mstislav Keldysh. In 1955 he moved to OKB-1 to direct the development of guidance and orientation systems for rockets. He and his colleagues explained to the first cosmonauts how the Vostok spacecraft functioned. His genius is apparent from the fact that the systems that were developed under his direction were used for decades in Soviet spacecraft.

Boris Raushenbakh, who initiated the TsKBEM’s rapid construction of the DOS space station.

After leaving cosmonautics behind, Raushenbakh devoted his time to the analysis of philosophy, science, religion and art. He wrote two books on geometry in artistic paintings, two on the connections between science and early Russian iconography, and the last, which was published just before his death, on Russian science, Nazism and nationalism. He died on 27 March 2001 at the age of 87.

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.