Category Salyut – The First Space Station


But the real heroes of this outstanding epoch in the Soviet space programme are Georgiy Dobrovolskiy, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev. In the towns of their births, Odessa, Moscow and Aktyubinsk, there are monuments to them at which colleagues, friends, relatives and ordinary people with a passion for space leave flowers. Every year, on the anniversary of their tragic deaths, members of the current cosmonaut corps pay their respects at the niches in the Kremlin’s wall where the ashes of their fallen colleagues are interred.

Also, when the Apollo 15 astronauts David R. Scott and James B. Irwin landed on the Moon a month after the Soyuz 11 tragedy they left behind a plaque which bore the names of all the astronauts and cosmonauts then known to have died, including Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev. In addition, they gave the name Salyut to one of the craters near their landing site, which was alongside the rim of Hadley Rille at the base of the Apennine mountain range. The International Astronomical Union has named craters on the far side of the Moon after the Soyuz 11 crew. The crater Dobrovolskiy is at 12.8°S, 129.7°E and is 39 km in diameter; Volkov is at 13.6°S, 131.7°E and is 35 km (or 40 km according to another source); and Patsayev is at 16.7°S, 133.4°E and is 55 km in diameter. They are all located near the large crater named after Konstantin Tsiolkovskiy, the ‘father of cosmonautics’, which was first seen in 1959 when a Soviet space probe took the first pictures of the far side of the Moon.

In June 1977 three small asteroids were named after the Soyuz 11 crew. Asteroid 1789 Dobrovolskiy (1966QC) was discovered in August 1966, orbits the Sun at an average distance of 1.79 AU and is 33 km in diameter.[141] Asteroid 1790 Volkov (1967ER) was discovered in March 1967, orbits at 2.01 AU and with a diameter of

Cosmonauts place flowers at the niches in the wall of the Kremlin of their fallen colleagues.

42 km is the largest of the trio. Asteroid 1791 Patsayev (1967RE) was discovered in September 1967, orbits at 2.35 AU and has a diameter of 29 km.

Tracking ships of the scientific research fleet that communicated with spacecraft were also named for the Soyuz 11 crew.18 Cosmonaut Vladislav Volkov was launched on 18 October 1977. It was joined by Cosmonaut Georgiy Dobrovolskiy on 14 October 1978 and Cosmonaut Viktor Patsayev on 19 June 1979. All three ships have a mass of 8,950 tonnes, are 122 metres in length, 17 metres wide, and are served by a crew of over 60 people. After the Soyuz 11 tragedy it was suggested that the old tracking ship Bezhitsa be renamed Cosmonaut Georgiy Dobrovolskiy but it was decided that a new vessel must be built. Cosmonaut Viktor Patsayev was based on a ship which was launched in 1968 and was modified in 1977/1978 to suit the new requirements. In addition to controlling automated satellites and interplanetary probes, these ships were used extensively in operating the Salyut 6 and Salyut 7 space stations. And in 1988 the Buran space-plane was controlled by Cosmonaut Vladislav Volkov in the Atlantic and Cosmonaut Georgiy Dobrovolskiy in the Pacific. Cosmonaut Vladislav Volkov made its 17th and final cruise in 1992, Cosmonaut Georgiy Dobrovolskiy its 17th in 1993 and Cosmonaut Viktor Patsayev its 14th in 1994. In 2001 Cosmonaut Georgiy Dobrovolskiy and Cosmonaut Viktor Patsayev, which were now owned by the Russian Space Agency, were docked at Kaliningrad on the Baltic and in 2005, against the opposition of veterans, Cosmonaut Georgiy Dobrovolskiy was sold to a foreign company and is still sailing the seas. Cosmonaut [142]

Three craters near the large crater Tsiolkovskiy on the far side of the Moon have been assigned the names Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev.

Tracking ships named after cosmonauts Volkov (left), Dobrovolskiy (top right) and Patsayev (bottom right).

Viktor Patsayev remained in Kaliningrad, and in April 2001 opened as a permanent Space Odyssey exhibition. Although it never sails, occasionally its antennas link the TsUP with the crew of the International Space Station. All the other tracking ships were discarded in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union.[143]

Sports competitions are also associated with two of the Soyuz 11 crew. In 1972 a traditional cup in parachuting was named after Georgiy Dobrovolskiy. A year later, a cup in acrobatics was named in honour of Vladislav Volkov. Since 2002 this has been permanently celebrated at the town of Velikiy Novgorod, and it was recently opened to international participation. Interestingly, a solar observatory in Auckland in New Zealand was named Dobrovolskiy. A museum was opened in October 1974 on the grounds of the Aviation Institute in Moscow in honour of Vladislav Volkov, and a nearby street was named after him and a bust of him placed at its end. Streets in Vladivostok, Rostov-na-Donu and Mariupole in Ukraine were similarly named. Schools No. 10 in Odessa and No. 54 in Vladivostok were named in honour of Dobrovolskiy, as were streets in several Russian and Ukrainian cities and towns. A monument to him was placed in a square in Odessa, and a memorial plate was placed in the small town of Mogilyev.

Dobrovolskiy is an honoured citizen of Odessa, Volkov of Kaluga and Kirov, and Patsayev of Aktyubinsk. A monument to Patsayev was placed in the main square of Aktyubinsk and one of the main streets was named after him, as indeed was a street in Kaluga where Konstantin Tsiolkovskiy lived. The museum at Aktyubinsk has a collection of personal objects that belonged to Patsayev. His wife Vera donated the flight suit which he wore in preparing for his space flight. It bears the mission patch designed by Leonov. The museum also has two books from Patsayev’s library, rare photographs, and a star map that Patsayev used on Salyut as the first man to work a telescope in space. A famous school for young pilots in Aktyubinsk was named in his honour. It became a tradition that at the conclusion of their studies the cadets were awarded their diplomas by Maria Sergeyevna, Patsayev’s mother. She had been in Aktyubinsk paying her daughter a visit when the deaths of the Soyuz 11 crew were announced. She decided to spend the remainder of her life in the place where his monument was placed, and died there in August 2004 at the age of 91.

In the presence of Vera Patsayeva, a memorial was erected at the place where the Soyuz 11 capsule landed. Marina and Natalia Dobrovolskaya, Lyudmila Volkova and her granddaughter, and cosmonaut representatives visited it on the 20th anniversary. Marina recalls: “Curiously, it was a dry June, it had not rained in a month, and then as we began the ceremony, suddenly, and right on the spot of the landing, it started to rain.’’

However, perhaps the most commemorative tradition is the one that is performed at the Air Squadron in Sevastopol in which Georgiy Dobrovolskiy served as a pilot. Ever since September 1971 his name is called each evening during the roll call, as if he were still a member of the regiment. A pilot explains his absence: “Hero of the Soviet Union Lieutenant-Colonel Georgiy Timofeyevich Dobrovolskiy has lost his life in service to his country, obeying his duty in testing space technology.’’ On 30 June 2006 Marina Dobrovolskaya marked the 35th anniversary of her father’s death by attending this roll call.

The wives of the fallen cosmonauts never truly recovered from the shocking news of the accidental and tragic deaths of their husbands.

Lyudmila Dobrovolskaya died in 1986. Marina Dobrovolskaya is a teacher of literature at Moscow State University (MGU). She is married and has one daughter. Natalia Dobrovolskiy is in Moscow and looks after her family. Lyudmila Volkova is retired, while Vladimir Volkov works abroad as a TV camera operator.

As an expert in atmospheric physics and remote-sensing of the Earth from space, Vera Patsayeva had an opportunity to access original materials relating to the flight of Soyuz 11. In 1973, with the aid of a group of enthusiasts, colleagues and friends, she published the book Salyut in Orbit, drawing extracts from the diaries written by the crew. Svetlana Patsayeva says: “I can only now understand how much strength she needed to gain permission to publish the book, which presented information on the Soyuz and the Salyut station which, at that time, was highly confidential. At the same time, she was surviving her own tragic loss. Sadly, during those times it was impossible to write completely openly on the subject. The manuscript was censored and the most important part on the causes of the tragedy were deleted from the book. Later, she collected the designers’ opinions, as well as the opinions of scientists and doctors, and interviewed eminent people whose names she could not reveal. She did this with the goal of determining whether the tragedy could have been avoided – and who was responsible for the accident. This is all in the manuscript, but it could not be published in the Soviet era. Later, unfortunately, her health deteriorated and she was unable to complete it.’’

Monuments to the memories of Vladislav Volkov (top left) and Viktor Patsayev (top right). Bottom: Svetlana and Dmitriy Patsayev (second from the right) with their sons visiting Red Square on 30 June 2007. (Copyright Svetlana Patsayeva)

As mentioned earlier, Vera Patsayeva had kept a diary during the Soyuz 11 flight. Of this, Svetlana said: “f dream about publishing mom’s and dad’s diaries in one book, as a day-by-day record of what was happening in space set alongside my mother’s feelings about the things which she had to endure during that period.’’ Vera Patsayeva died in 2002. Viktor Patsayev’s children have finished studies at Moscow State University. Both have followed the interests of their parents. Dmitriy Patsayev works at the Space Research fnstitute of the Russian Academy of Sciences on the development of instruments to investigate the planets Mars and Venus. He is married and has two sons. Svetlana Patsayeva is married and has one son. She is an assistant professor at the Physics Department of Moscow State University, holds a master’s degree in science, and is an expert in the application of spectral analysis in ecology.


How did the cosmonauts react? It is possible to make inferences from the analyses performed by the medics, the state of the cabin, and the data recorded by the ‘black box’. During the descent, each cosmonaut wore a medical belt with various sensors and the data on their vital functions was recorded. Prior to their return, the general physical state of each man was good. Dobrovolskiy’s pulse in a normal, unstressed state was 78­85 beats per minute. Volkov, being more dynamic and emotional, was usually higher, and at the time of undocking from Salyut his pulse increased to 120, perhaps reflecting his concern about the hatch seal. Patsayev’s pulse was between 92 and 106.

During the first second after the separation of the spacecraft’s modules the pulses of all three men dramatically increased. Dobrovolskiy rose to 114. Volkov shot up to 180! Four seconds after the onset of depressurisation Dobrovolskiy’s respiration rate was 48 breaths per minute; the normal rate is 16. Such rates are characteristic of a sudden oxygen starvation. The rapid increases in pulse and respiration indicate that the crewmembers were immediately aware of what was occurring. In addition to hearing the air leaking out and feeling the pressure fall, they would have heard a loud siren and seen the value of the cabin pressure decline on the indicator set in the lower left corner of the main instrument panel. There would also have been physical indications, including a rapid fall in temperature and air fogging as the water vapour condensed. They would have suffered the effects of decompression – an immediate strong pain in the head, chest and abdomen, followed by burst eardrums and blood streaming from the nose and ears. Their heart rates rose during the first 20 seconds, but by 60 seconds had reduced to just 40 per cent of the baseline.

Death was not instantaneous. Due to out-gassing of oxygen from the venous blood supply to the lungs, the men would have remained consciousness for 50-60 seconds. However, they could have moved about and tried to remedy their plight only during the first 13 seconds; this being the ‘time of useful consciousness’, corresponding to the time that it took for the oxygen-deprived blood to pass from the lungs to the brain. Because the valves were situated above their couches, Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev attempted to take action. Being in the centre, nearest the hatch, Dobrovolskiy was in the best position to act. However, the cosmonauts did not know the actual source of the leak. Recalling the difficulty that they had faced in sealing the hatch, their initial diagnosis must have been that the air was leaking through the hatch. Dobrovolskiy unbuckled and pulled himself to the hatch. However, it was properly closed. When Volkov and Patsayev switched off the radio equipment in order to listen to the hiss in an effort to identify the source of the leak, this was realised to be one of the two valves. But which one? Valve No. 2, above Patsayev, was marked as ‘open’, so he went to try to close it. But it was No. 1 which was open. It is difficult to know who did so, but either Patsayev or Dobrovolskiy began to close the hand-operated shutter of valve No. 1. However, in normal circumstances it required at least 35 seconds to close the valve by hand, and by the time they passed out it was only partially cycled. Volkov was too far away from the valves to assist, so he remained strapped into his couch. By virtue of being more active, Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev would probably have lost consciousness before Volkov, for whom the frustration of being unable to assist must have been intense.

They died rapidly. The initial paralysis due to oxygen starvation would have been followed by general convulsions. During this time, water vapour rapidly formed in the venous blood, and in soft tissue. Blood and other bodily fluids boiled and turned to vapour, causing the body to swell to perhaps twice its normal volume. The heart rate initially soared, but then diminished to an unsustainable rate. The arterial blood pressure dropped to zero after about 60 seconds, but the venous pressure rose due to gas and vapour distending the venous system. Within a minute, the venous pressure exceeded the arterial pressure. In effect, there was no circulation of blood. After the initial rush of gas from the lungs during decompression, gas and vapour continued to flow out through the airways, and the sustained evaporation of water chilled the mouth and nose to almost freezing temperatures. The remainder of the body would have cooled more slowly. The first fatal damage occurred in the cosmonauts’ lungs, as the most vulnerable part of the body in such circumstances. They naturally tried to hold their breath, but as the cabin pressure declined the lungs and thorax became over-extended, tearing and rupturing the lung tissue and capillaries. The trapped air was forced directly into the blood, following the ruptured blood vessels and creating massive air bubbles in the vital organs, including the heart and brain. Clinical death began after 90-100 seconds, simultaneously in all three men. By 110 seconds after the separation of the modules there were no heart or respiration rates recorded. Ten seconds later, life was extinct. The cabin remained in vacuum for 11.5 minutes, then began to fill with air from the upper atmosphere.


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.


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.

Cosmonauts dead on landing


The most critical and dramatic phase of a manned space flight is the return to Earth. For a Soyuz mission, it starts with the orientation of the spacecraft for the braking manoeuvre and ends approximately 90 minutes later with the landing of the descent module on the Kazakh steppe and the evacuation of the crew. This phase involves a sequence of twelve specific actions, the successful completion of which is vital for the safety of the crew. Indeed, to date, the worst accident in the history of the Soviet manned space programme – the death of Vladimir Komarov – occurred during the return from orbit.

The OKB-1 designers based the return operation on the presumption of excellent visibility in orbit for the orientation and braking manoeuvres, as well as on Earth for the landing. Traditionally, the in-space activities were done on the daylight part of the orbit so that the crew could confirm the orientation of their spacecraft relative to the illuminated horizon, and landing was timed to occur at dawn. Setting up for re­entry is crucial, as even a small misalignment of the braking engine in relation to the direction of travel could result in the descent module missing the landing site by hundreds of kilometres. In addition, if the entry angle were too shallow, the descent module might only ‘graze’ the atmosphere and remain in an extremely low orbit which, although it would soon decay, would likely not do so before the crew ran out of air. The orientation and control system (SOUD) developed in Department No. 27 of the OKB-1 under the leadership of Boris Raushenbakh was used to orientate the spacecraft with its main braking engine facing in the direction of travel. Normally, the braking manoeuvre to initiate the descent trajectory occurs 25 minutes after the completion of the orientation manoeuvre, while travelling northeast at an altitude of about 250 km over the Gulf of Guinea towards the coast of Africa. The KTDU-35 had a single combustion chamber, and was designed by Isayev’s OKB-2 bureau. It delivered a thrust of 417 kg, and could be fired up to 25 times for periods between one and several hundred seconds, accumulating a total time of at least 500 seconds. It was this engine that performed the manoeuvres of the rendezvous with Salyut. An

almost identical engine with a thrust of 411 kg served as a backup for the braking manoeuvre. The propulsion module contained four tanks (two for fuel and two for oxidiser) containing approximately 900 kg of propellant.

At the onset of the braking manoeuvre the cosmonauts feel a gentle jolt, followed by uniform deceleration. Depending on the ballistics of the descent, the engine fires for between 145 and 194 seconds to reduce the speed from the 8 km/s required for orbit by 100-120 m/s to initiate the descent. In passing over the Mediterranean at an altitude in the range 110-150 (usually 130) km, the spacecraft adopts an orientation in which its longitudinal axis is more or less perpendicular to the direction of travel, with the orbital module ‘on top’ and the propulsion module ‘beneath’ so that when the three modules are separated, aerodynamic drag cannot cause a collision with the descent module. At the time of separation, less than ten minutes after the braking manoeuvre, explosives simultaneously jettison the orbital and propulsion modules and discard from the descent module all unnecessary elements such as its antennas and periscope. Only the descent module is equipped with the shielding required to survive the thermal stress of entry into the atmosphere; all the discarded items burn up. Owing to mass limitations and the relatively short time of its autonomous flight – about 30 minutes – the descent module is not equipped to issue telemetry. Instead, at all stages of the descent following separation the commander loudly calls out the progress of the automated sequence of operations and on conditions in the descent module, and this commentary is encoded in the form of Morse code and transmitted by a small VHF antenna on the outer part of the hatch at the top of the capsule – the

The main breaking engine KTDU-35 visible at the rear of a Soyuz spacecraft.

one which had provided access to the orbital module, and had thermal protection on its exterior. In addition, telemetry from various systems on board is recorded by the ‘Mir-3’ device, which has a duration of 76 minutes.1

In contrast to the spherical Vostok and Voskhod capsules, the descent module of the Soyuz is capable of controlling its path through the atmosphere. This phase of the descent starts over eastern Turkey, 16 minutes after the braking manoeuvre and about 6 minutes after separation. The module has six 10-kg thrusters positioned on its sides which draw their propellant from tanks located in the base, directly behind the couches. The flight control system fires these thrusters as necessary to maintain the broad base facing the direction of travel. In addition, because the module has an offset centre of mass to generate aerodynamic lift, the thrusters can roll the capsule to steer left or right and upward or downward so as to aim for a given landing point. Furthermore, an aerodynamic flight subjects the crew to a lesser g-load than does a ballistic path. The entire module is coated with an ablative material for protection against the heat of re-entry, but the base, which is subjected to the most extreme thermal stress, is covered by a thick shield of azbetextolite material. The maximum thermal and deceleration forces occur while over the Caspian Sea. The Kazbek-U couches enable the cosmonauts to return with their backs facing the direction of travel and in the optimal body-position to endure the deceleration.[95] [96] At this time, the module is sheathed by a hot plasma which, being opaque to radio waves, inhibits communication. The module bounces and shakes in response to the aerodynamic forces of its passage. It is a very noisy time. After the time of greatest thermal stress, the incandescence of the surrounding plasma fades to show blue sky. As the module continues to slow down, the strong vibrations cease and there is a welcome silence.

The parachute deployment begins at an altitude of about 9.5 km. First a cover is jettisoned to allow a small pilot chute to pull out a drogue chute with a canopy area of 14 square metres. This is designed to stabilise the module, and it is released after 17 seconds to initiate the deployment of the main chute at an altitude of about 7 km. This chute is stowed in an egg-shape container behind the heads of the crew that has a volume of just 0.27 cubic metres. It deploys in several stages to produce a canopy of 1,000 square metres by an altitude of 5 km. Small VHF and short-wave antennas on the shrouds transmit signals to the recovery helicopters. By 50 seconds after the start of the deployment of this chute the rate of descent ought to have been reduced to 6-8 m/s. If the rate of descent exceeds the maximum permissible value, the main chute will be jettisoned and the reserve chute of 570 square metres deployed. This is stowed in a separate container adjacent to that for the main chute, with a volume of 0.17 cubic metres. If used, the reserve chute will deploy at an altitude of 4.6 km and achieve the minimal landing speed of 10 m/s.

ш (ШШ)


Immediately after the braking manoeuvre, the Soyuz spacecraft separates into three modules to enable the descent module (in the middle) to re-enter the atmosphere on its own. (From the book Soyuz – A Universal Spacecraft, courtesy Rex Hall)

The normal deployment of the Soyuz parachute system: (1) the pilot and drogue chutes deploy in turn; (2) on the drogue chute; (3) jettisoning the drogue deploys the main chute; (4) while on the main chute, two ventilation valves open; (5) the base heat-shield is jettisoned; (6) the harness of the main chute is repositioned for landing; (7) retro – rockets fire 1 meter above the ground to soften the impact; and (8) the descent module lands and the chute is jettisoned.

Three last operations of the previous graphic are shown by this collage of pictures of a Soyuz descent module landing. The final pre-landing operations proceed as the capsule descends on its main chute (top left); dust is raised as the retro-rockets fire (top right), and the cloud of dust continues to obscure the capsule as the parachute is jettisoned.

After the deployment of the parachute, a pair of valves on the top of the module automatically open to allow the internal pressure to match that outside. At this time, in preparation for landing, each cosmonaut makes sure that his body is comfortable in his contoured couch and shock-absorbing rods elevate the couches from the floor. At an altitude of 3 km (75 seconds after descending through an altitude of 5.5 km), the basal shield is jettisoned to expose four solid-propellant retro-rockets (DMP) to be used to cushion the landing. With the heavy shield discarded, the rate of descent slows. On a nominal descent, there is ten minutes remaining to landing. Each retro – rocket has 22 jets arranged in two rings near the edge of the module’s base. They are fired simultaneously by an altimeter at a height of 1-1.5 metres over the ground to reduce the impact speed to 2-3 m/s, with the shock being absorbed by the couches.[97] Once the Soyuz is on the ground, the parachute is jettisoned in order to preclude this from dragging the module across the surface if there is a strong wind.

The landing area is on the flat Kazakh steppe. The ‘landing window’ usually starts three hours before dawn and ends just before sunrise. In addition to enabling the in­orbit manoeuvres to be made in daylight, this schedule permits the recovery team to observe the descent module without being blinded by the rising Sun. If the descent is on target, the recovery helicopters will soon settle close alongside. If the recovery crew is unable to arrive quickly, the spacecraft commander will open the hatch and exit. Because the hatch swings into the cabin towards the flight engineer’s side, the research engineer is second to exit, after which the flight engineer transfers to the central couch prior to exiting.

As cosmonauts are under stress during the descent they suffer an ‘adrenalin rush’, and even when everything functions as intended they can be taken by surprise. For example, the crew of Soyuz 7 were initially confused when, after the deployment of the main chute, they felt fresh air rush into the cabin through the valves designed to equalise the pressure. And on Soyuz 4 the crew were surprised when the shock – absorbers raised their couches just before the landing. The first mission to return in abnormal conditions was Voskhod 2 in March 1965, with cosmonauts Belyayev and Leonov. When the automatic orientation failed, Belyayev did so himself and landed 400 km off-target in a snowy forest, and they had to spend two nights in the frozen capsule surrounded by wolves and bears. Another serious incident occurred in January 1969 during the return of Soyuz 5 with cosmonaut Volynov, when the propulsion module failed to separate and blocked the heat shield as the spacecraft entered the atmosphere. Volynov was alarmed by the rise in temperature and smell of soot in the cabin, but fortunately at an altitude of 80 km the connections between the modules melted, the propulsion module was torn away by the atmospheric drag, and the descent module stabilised. However, it was off-target and the landing was so hard that Volynov suffered broken teeth. Of course, the worst accident occurred during the return of Soyuz 1 in April 1967. Owing to the lax technical discipline of the people who applied the thermal treatment to the descent module, the volumes of the main and reserve parachute containers were reduced, with the result that when

The recovery team opens the hatch to help the cosmonauts out of the capsule. On some occasions the capsule comes to rest upright, but here it is on its side, which can be uncomfortable for the crew.

the parachutes were inserted they were packed too tightly.[98] At an altitude of 9.5 km the hatch of the main parachute container was jettisoned, as planned. This drew out the pilot chute, which deployed the drogue chute. Unfortunately, the drogue was not able to pull the main chute from its container. Seventeen seconds later, the hatch of the reserve chute jettisoned and pulled out the reserve chute. What happened next is disputed: one account says that the reserve chute was in the so-called aerodynamic shadow of the drogue; another says that it became twisted with the other lines. But both accounts agree that the parachute was unable to deploy fully.[99] In any event, the module struck the ground at a speed exceeding 50 m/s, causing the main instrument panel to break free and crush the chest of Komarov, killing him.


When the Almaz and DOS programmes were initiated, no one could have predicted that such hardware would form the core of a space station at the turn of the century, but the Russian-built Zarya (‘Dawn’) and Zvezda (‘Star’) modules are key parts of the fnternational Space Station. And certainly not even Sergey Korolev could have dreamed that his Soyuz spacecraft would still be in use ferrying crews to this station. This legacy is truly the best of monuments to the lost crew of the first space station.

One day, a space crew will depart from a space station to head once again for the Moon, as a stepping stone to the planets. These future space travellers will owe a tremendous debt of thanks to cosmonauts Georgiy Dobrovolskiy, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev, whose names are by now written between the stars.

The Mir orbital complex. (Courtesy NASA)

Two Soyuz TMA spacecraft docked with the International Space Station. (Courtesy NASA)

The Zvezda and Zarya modules that form the core of the International Space Station are the direct legacy of Salyut and its heroic crew. Korolev’s legacy is evident from the two Soyuz and one Progress spacecraft docked with the station. (Courtesy NASA)

Specific references

1. Mishin, V. P., Why Didn’t We Fly to the Moon? Znaniye, 12/1990, Moscow, 1990 (in Russian).

2. Gubaryev, V. S., Russian Space, Book 3. Exmo, Algorithm, Moscow, 2006, pp. 390-412 (in Russian).

3. Loskutov, A., ‘Tenable Gene’ (Interview with Mishin’s daughter), Daily News, Moscow, No. 8, 18 January 2007.

4. Novosti kosmonavtiki (in Russian)

No. 12, 2002 (Eulogy for Nikolay Rukavishnikov)

No. 3, 2003 (Necrology for Kerim Kerimov)

5. Molchanov, V. E., About Those Who Did Not Reach Orbit. Znaniye, Moscow 1990 (in Russian).

6. Soviet Cuban (Krasnodar), No. 29, 5 August 2005 (Interview with Konstantin Feoktistov).

7. Biographies of cosmonauts www. astronaut. ru

8. Tracking ships www. ski-omer. ru

Interviews by the author:

1. Marina Dobrovolskaya, 24 May 2007

2. Svetlana Patsayeva, 1 August 2007

3. Dmitry Patsayev, 5 September 2007

The immortal crew of the world’s first space station – Viktor Patsayev, Georgiy Dobrovolskiy and Vladislav Volkov.

[1] KETs – Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovskiy

[2] DOS – Long-duration Orbital Station

[3] The ‘O’ in the abbreviation OKB-1 is the word ossobeniy, which can also be translated as ‘particular’ or ‘experimental’.

[4] The UR-500 rocket first flew in July 1965, and became known as the ‘Proton’ after its first scientific payloads.

[5] Funktsionalno-Gruzovoy Blok.

[6] Transportniy Korabl Snabzheniya.

[7] In effect, it was a Hubble Space Telescope designed for observing the surface of the Earth.

[8] This KSI capsule had the designator 11F76.

[9] A kilovolt-ampere (kVA) is equivalent to a kilowatt (kW).

[10] In the case of Soyuz-P, the ‘P’ stood for Perehvatchik, meaning ‘interceptor’.

[11] The ‘R’ stood for Razvedchik, meaning ‘intelligence gatherer’.

[12] Such a rapid time scale would prove to be impracticable, owing to the slow pace of the development of the Soyuz spacecraft on which Zvezda was based.

[13] The designation ‘VI’ stood for Voenniy Issledovatel (Военый исследовател), meaning Military Researcher.

[14] ‘TK’ stood for Transportniy Korabl, meaning ‘transport spacecraft’.

[15] The designers of the American MOL made the same compromise, placing the hatch in the heat shield of the Gemini spacecraft. An unmanned test flight demonstrated that the hatch could survive re­entry, but no manned mission was ever flown.

[16] This special-purpose gun was designed by Aleksandr Emmanuelovich Nudelyman.

[17] In fact, the Americans did not have such a capability.

[18] The ‘S’ stood for Snabzheniya, meaning ‘supply’, so the role of this spacecraft was to transport a crew and their immediate supplies.

[19] The ‘G’ stood for Gruzovoy, meaning ‘cargo’, so the ‘SG’ model was a cargo transporter.

[20] A decade later, a modified form of the 7K-SG was launched as Progress 1 to resupply Salyut 6.

[21] Note that whereas the large Almaz was able to accommodate a straightforward conversion of an aircraft cannon, Nudelyman had to develop a much more compact weapon for the smaller Soyuz-VI.

[22] The main habitable compartment of the Skylab space station was the fuel tank of the second stage of a Saturn IB launch vehicle, so the basis for Raushenbakh’s idea is obvious.

[23] This was to be the 7K-T (‘T’ for Transportniy, or ‘transporter’) version of the Soyuz spacecraft.

[24] It was one of these cores which, some 13 months later, was successfully launched as the world’s first space station.

[25] On the original Almaz, this forward hatch would have enabled the crew to enter the station from the capsule mounted on the front at launch.

[26] According to Mishin, Ustinov ordered that the first visit to the station should last one month.

[27] The pioneering spacewalker was Aleksey Leonov in 1965.

[28] Soon after this, Shonin was admitted to the Burdenko Hospital in Moscow suffering from depression. On being discharged in March 1971 he was urged to undergo a lengthy medical treatment. He recovered, but never flew in space again. He died from a heart attack in April 1997.

[29] In accordance with Soviet tradition, the first space station did not bear the number ‘1’. If the first example of a new type of spacecraft were to be numbered, it would make evident that a series of such vehicles were planned, and the Soviet Union went to great lengths to keep its plans secret.

[30] The ships were named Morzhovets, Kegostrov and Academician Sergey Korolev.

[31] Kubasov’s mind may have been distracted at this time, because in Moscow his wife was giving birth to their second child: son Dmitriy.

[32] The first two Soviet spacewalkers were Aleksey Leonov, on the Voskhod 2 mission in March 1966, and Yevgeniy Khrunov, who made the transfer from Soyuz 5 to Soyuz 4 several minutes ahead of Yeliseyev.

[33] After the death of Stalin in 1953, Stanislav Kuraytis was rehabilitated and granted a PhD degree, but he died soon thereafter.

[34] The eight TsKBEM engineers selected for the first group of civilian cosmonauts were Sergey Anyokhin (commander), Vladimir Bugrov, Vladislav Volkov, Georgiy Grechko, Gennadiy Dolgopolov, Valeriy Kubasov, Aleksey Yeliseyev and Oleg Makarov.

[35] Later in 1966, Yeliseyev divorced his first wife and married Larisa Ivanovna Komarova, who was an engineer at the TsKBEM.

[36] After 1975 TsUP-E controlled only manned military missions to the Almaz stations.

[37] The Molniya (Lightning) satellite was in a highly elliptical orbit with a 12-hour period and the highest point of its orbit over the Soviet Union.

[38] In December 1971 Cosmonaut Yuriy Gagarin joined the network. At 45,000 tonnes, it was made the flagship of the fleet. All ten tracking ships had their home ports either at Odessa in the Black Sea or at Leningrad in the Baltic.

[39] In cyrillic the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is Союз Советских Социалиста веских Республик (СССР). It is sometimes written as Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik (SSSR).

[40] Soyuz 5 was able to be launched with three cosmonauts and two EVA suits because it was a 7K – OK, as opposed to a 7K-T, and because by serving as the passive vehicle in the Soyuz 4/5 mission it had carried less propellant and no active docking system – it had the lighter passive unit. Furthermore, for half of its three days in space Soyuz 5 had only one man on board. The fact that the 7K-T that would have flown as Soyuz 12 would have been required to carry the extra air, water, food and apparatus needed to sustain the planned 30-45-day visit to DOS-1 would have made it difficult to accommodate in the orbital module two spacesuits and the ancillary air tanks.

[41] In fact, two days before Apollo 13 was due to launch in April 1970 NASA had exchanged a member of the prime crew with his backup, owing to a medical concern.

[42] Георгий Тмиофеевич Добвольский

[43] In 1968 this institution was renamed the Y. A. Gagarin Academy.

[44] In his 13 years as a military pilot Dobrovolskiy accumulated 330 hours of flying time in UT-2, Yak-11, La-9, R-39 and MiG-15 aircraft. At first sight this might appear an unimpressive figure, but it should be remembered that as of 1955 his job combined flying with administrative duties, and later he worked more as a manager than as a pilot. Although a total of 330 hours was one of the lowest accumulated flying times among the pilots of the second group, it was still one-third greater than that of most members of the first group!

[45] At this point the L1 group had 11 men; the military cosmonauts were Leonov, Popovich, Byelyayev, Volynov, Klimuk, Voronov and Artyukhin, and the civilians were Makarov, Rukavishnikov, Grechko and Sevastyanov.

[46] If all had gone well with Soyuz 1 in April 1967, this docking would have been with Soyuz 2. The loss of Vladimir Komarov created an opening in the crew assignments for the second attempt at this important task, and Volynov was added to the group.

[47] In June 1967 a civilian cosmonaut from the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Yershov (who was an expert in navigation systems) joined the 11-man L1 group, then in January 1968 Voloshin replaced Byelyayev and at the same time Bykovskiy and Kuklin were added to the group; making a total of 14 cosmonauts: 9 military and 5 civilians.

[48] Владислав Николаевич Волков

[49] In fact, Anyokhin was a colonel in the Air Force and a former test pilot. Interestingly, despite losing an eye in 1945 during a test flight, 21 years later he was nominated by the TsKBEM as a civilian cosmonaut and given command of the group of cosmonaut-engineers.

[50] It is impossible to prove, but it is likely that Kamanin ordered the Air Force doctors to pass only half of the cosmonaut-engineers sent to the TsPK by the TsKBEM, in order to minimise the number of civilians available to compete with his military cosmonauts for flights.

[51] These two were Nikolay Rukavishnikov and Vitaliy Sevastyanov.

[52] Red Star, the newspaper of the Soviet Army.

[53] Виктор Иванович Пацаев

[54] The tatar warriors were from Mongolia.

[55] By this time, Viktor could already speak German. He mastered English several years later, while working at OKB-1.

[56] To be precise, if all three members of Leonov’s crew wore the patch, then in the case of Kubasov it is not apparent in the photographs available to the author.

[57] The commander’s couch was in the centre, the flight engineer to the commander’s right and the research cosmonaut to the commander’s left. Spanning the cabin in front of them was a panel of instruments, switches and indicator lights.

[58] ‘Zarya’ means ‘Dawn’.

[59] Spacecraft radio call-signs were stones – Soyuz 10 was ‘Granit’ (‘Granite’) and Soyuz 11 was ‘Yantar’ (‘Amber’); Dobrovolskiy was ‘Yantar 1’, Volkov was ‘Yantar 2’ and Patsayev was ‘Yantar 3’.

[60] When Sputnik was launched in 1957, this town was the nearest large population centre on the track of the rocket’s ascent, so the launch site came to be known as the Baykonur cosmodrome.

[61] The Kettering team’s first success was Sputnik 4 in 1960. Its achievements included detecting signals from the Voskhod spacecraft in October 1964 prior to the completion of its initial orbit; identifying the location of the Soviet cosmodrome at Plesetsk in 1966; and the first Western detection of signals from the first Chinese satellite in April 1970.

[62] Although commonly described by Western observers as the ‘orbital module’, the Russian term for this part of the Soyuz spacecraft, bitovoy odsek, is more appropriately translated as ‘habitat module’.

[63] The ‘free volume’ of a module was that which was available to the crew after all of the apparatus had been installed.

[64] The managers had accepted Rukavishnikov’s suggestion that sleeping bags be carried on the Soyuz.

[65] American astronauts would refer to this as ‘lock on’.

[66] Whereas a bactericidal kills bacteria outright, a bacteriostatic is capable of inhibiting the growth or reproduction of bacteria, and so serves to improve the immune system.

[67] The acronym for the Athlete suit was TNK owing to its cyrillic name of Trenirovachniy Nagruzniy Costyum (Training Loading Suit).

[68] On Soyuz 9 Nikolayev and Sevastyanov had tested an apparatus (Athlete-1) intended for this purpose, but it was fixed to the wall of the orbital module and they could use it only at specific intervals.

[69] At an altitude of 300 km, the station’s orbit would be lowered by about 90 metres per day.

[70] This unit is now popular by the Chibis name.

[71] A contemporary Soviet source said that each man was to have two sessions in the ODNT per week, but owing to technical problems this was not feasible, and only two cosmonauts performed the ‘vacuum’ test, and only once during the mission. One was Dobrovolskiy and the other was very probably Volkov.

[72] The term Cosmovision was coined by the journalists for the TV shows from Salyut, not the name of the television programme(s) that participated in broadcasting them.

[73] Astronauts on some Gemini missions had previously conducted astronomical photography.

[74] An angstrom is 1 x 10-10 metre, and is the unit in which spectra are measured. The human eye is sensitive from 4,000 to 7,000 angstroms, running from violet to red respectively. The Orion telescope was designed to observe in the ultraviolet.

[75] Dobrovolskiy had concluded that the enthusiasm of a man exercising alone soon waned; it would be better for the crew to exercise jointly, since then they would be able to encourage one another. As commander, he may have been thinking of Volkov, who had missed several exercises earlier in the mission.

[76] Dobrovolskiy’s frustration at the workload was in part because the mission planners had drawn up the schedule of scientific experiments without appreciating the time that it would take to perform them in the weightlessness environment of space – it always took longer than it had during terrestrial training. Even before they could start an experiment, they had to prepare the apparatus, locate and read the instructions, unpack any samples or devices and install them. Naturally, as commander, he worried about his crew’s performance. It was demoralising for them to be judged by the TsUP to have fallen behind the schedule. However, in retrospect, it is evident that this crew was inadequately trained to conduct a large scientific programme – they were simply not ready.

[77] Although Salyut had four solar panels and could draw on the panels on the docked Soyuz, it had much more apparatus, and to supply the required electricity the designers had had to reduce the brightness of the illumination in some parts of the station. (Indeed, in pictures taken during the mission it is hard to see the details at the rear of the main working compartment.) This made it difficult to operate the apparatus which was installed in these areas.

[78] Specifically, they measured accommodation and convergence.

[79] Mayak (Beacon) was a popular radio programme.

[80] If this were to be done, and the Soyuz 12 launch was on schedule, then Rukavishnikov would establish the world record for the shortest interval between successive missions: 101 days.

[81] In Russian: radiochastotniy masspektrometer (радио-частотный масс-спектрометар).

[82] Recall that 7K-T was the model of the Soyuz in use at that time.

[83] Kamanin was already planning to fly to Yevpatoriya on 16 June at 4 p. m. Prior to his flight, he went to the TsPK and met Popovich (on the eve of the latter’s trip to Paris with Sevastyanov), Khrunov (about to visit the United States) and Volynov (who again asked Kamanin to be included in one of the forthcoming crews). Around 1 p. m., when Kamanin was having lunch, Shatalov approached him with the news of the fire on the station. Kamanin went straight to the airport and at 2.05 p. m. his Tu-104 departed for Yevpatoriya.

[84] Vera Patsayeva worked at the Central Scientific Research Institute of the Academy of Sciences (TsNIIMash), which was adjacent to the TsKBEM’s main building in Kaliningrad.

[85] In fact, Soyuz transmissions continued until 21 June, then nothing more was heard until 24 June.

[86] On Russian trains which travel for many days and nights, some wagons provide roomettes in which passengers can have privacy.

[87] In assuring the controllers that he was taking meticulous notes, Volkov, who was well aware of how he caused problems for his colleagues, flight controllers and even his boss Mishin, may have been trying to make amends as the mission approached its conclusion.

[88] Specifically, Kegostrov was to monitor the braking manoeuvre if this were scheduled for the second orbit after Soyuz 11 undocked from Salyut, and Bezhitsa would do so if it occurred on the third orbit.

[89] He observed the star Vega (alpha Lyra).

[90] Mignonette is the common name for a small family of herbs and shrubs that inhabit arid regions.

[91] The Era investigation, which began on 16 June, was to detect high-energy electrons at orbital altitude.

[92] Dobrovolskiy was referring to the speed at which the human eye adapts to rapidly changing lighting conditions. Although he was able to determine the direction of the station’s motion after watching the surface of the Earth for a while, if he quickly switched his attention to another area that was differently illuminated then it took a while to perceive the motion which he knew to be occurring.

[93] Note that although the Soyuz 9 record was 18 days, the International Astronautics Federation required an endurance record to be exceeded by 10 per cent to recognise it as having been ‘broken’; hence the delayed congratulations.

[94] The situation could have been worse – the catastrophic N1 launch failure of July 1969 had destroyed the launch pad! Fortunately, two N1 pads had been constructed.

[95] When Vladimir Komarov’s capsule struck the ground at high speed, the ‘black box’ was destroyed by a combination of the shock and the subsequent fire. The design had been strengthened in order to survive a recurrence of such an event.

[96] When the direction of the force is from the feet toward the head, the body is exposed to the maximum load. The optimal position is when the force acts at an angle of 10-15 degrees to the chest-to – backbone direction (known as ‘breast-spin’) because this minimises the component from the head to the feet.

[97] The height sensor is a gamma-ray altimeter (Таммалучевой высотомер’).

[98] The root cause of Komarov’s death was the thermal treatment of the descent module and the placing of the parachutes into their containers. Because the parachute containers of both the Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 2 descent modules did not have hatches when they were sent for the application of their thermal treatment, the technicians decided not to ask for the hatches to be supplied and instead ‘closed’ the openings using improvised covers that did not form a hermetic seal. During the treatment, some molecules of the thermal protective material penetrated the containers and coated their walls, thereby both reducing their volumes and making the smooth interior surfaces rough. When the treatment was finished, the technicians tried to put the parachutes into their containers and, on finding that they would not fit, opted not to inform their managers but instead (according to Mishin) to use some kind of tool to force them in. It is ironic that the early problems suffered by Soyuz 1 led to the cancellation of the launch of the second spacecraft for this joint mission, as otherwise both crews would almost certainly have been killed.

[99] The recovery team found the pilot, drogue and reserve parachutes at the landing site; the main chute was destroyed inside its container by the fire that followed the crash.

[100] While sailing towards the assigned station, the crew of Bezhitsa heard the terrible news of Soyuz 11 on Radio Moscow.

[101] A further complication was that owing to the difficulty in achieving a hermetic seal of the hatch prior to undocking, the cosmonauts were initially 20 minutes behind the flight plan.

[102] In addition, neither Stafford or Leonov knew that in 1975 they would command the two spacecraft of the joint mission involving an Apollo and a Soyuz spacecraft.

[103] The poet referred to Viktor Patsayev as Vitya, Georgiy Dobrovolskiy as Gosha and Vladislav Volkov as Slava.

[104] Aleksandr Matrosov was made a Hero of the Soviet Union during World War II for sacrificing himself in an assault on an enemy bunker, and in so doing preserving the lives of his colleagues.

[105] This was reported by The Sunday Times, but there is no direct evidence for this in the radio communications following undocking. However, it is not inconceivable that the cosmonauts had problems with breathing after a long day of transferring the final materials to the Soyuz and the stress resulting from the difficulty encountered in closing the hatch.

[106] In all other respects, of course, the Soyuz was more sophisticated than the Voskhod, particularly in having an escape system in case of a malfunction in the launch vehicle.

[107] Three pressure suits would have weighed a total of about 80 kg, and there would have to have been additional apparatus to support them independently of the cabin environment. The Soyuz spacecraft simply was not designed for such a configuration.

[108] In making this remark, Mishin gave the impression that he expected that a cosmonaut would hold his finger in place to stem the air leak right through the re-entry process, until the capsule was in the atmosphere. However, the real value in interrupting the leak in this manner would have been to buy the time required to close the manual shutter on the valve. Yet there was no tank to replenish the lost air.

[109] Kamanin has interpreted Mishin’s remark about a cosmonaut stemming the air leak by holding his thumb over the hole literally, and is criticising the expectation that this could have been sustained as the deceleration loads increased and forced the crewman back into his couch. In fact, if all that was intended was to buy time to close the manual shutter in the valve, then this criticism of the idea does not apply.

[110] When asked about this by the author, the cosmonauts’ children Marina Dobrovolskiy and Svetlana and Dmitriy Patsayev could not confirm Leonov’s remark. Also, his remark about Vera Patsayeva is not recorded in her meticulous diary.

[111] Here Feoktistov told Vera Patsayeva of the defect noted by Shatalov. The automatic shutter took the form of a ball fixed in its ‘nest’ by a screw, but the screw on valve No. 1 was not fastened properly and the shock of the pyrotechnics unseated the ball from the nest.

[112] As explained earlier, there was a small pyrotechnic charge in each valve to release the ball from its nest. Both valves were on the same electric circuit.

[113] As may be inferred from Mishin’s remarks, he made contradictory accounts in interviews given many years later. The fact that Leonov says he discussed the valves with the crew proves that they were aware of their settings, because they decided to use the settings which were specified in their onboard instruction. The thrust of Mishin’s argument was that he wished to place the blame on the crew’s training (which was the responsibility of Kamanin) rather than on the design of the craft by his bureau.

[114] In view of the poor workmanship and the fact that there were no post-flight checks until after the Soyuz 11 accident, a decompression at this phase of the mission was an accident waiting to happen, and if it had not occurred on Soyuz 11 it may well have done so on a later mission.

[115] In Sokol-K, the ‘K’ was for ‘космос’, the Russian word for ‘space’.

[116] This test could last six days because the unmanned spacecraft placed a lower load on its batteries.

[117] DOS-2 was DOS-7K No. 2, 17K No. 122.

[118] Although recruited as military cosmonauts, the fact that Kolodin and Voronov were not military pilots meant that they were unlikely to be assigned as spacecraft commanders.

[119] The irony, of course, was that Salyut was a civilian development of Almaz, and as Ustinov had realised early on, launching a scientific station first would serve as a maskirovka to hide the real project.

[120] Rodion Malinovskiy and Andrey Grechko (Ministers of Defence from 1957 to 1967 and 1967 to 1976 respectively) and Marshals Konstantin Vershinin and Pavel Kutakhov (Commanders in Chief of the Air Force from 1957 to 1969 and 1969 to 1984) had persistently urged that that the construction of the first Almaz station be accelerated.

[121] DOS-3 was 17K No. 123 and DOS-4 was 17K No. 124.

[122] The Kaliningrad mission control facility was designated TsUP-M, to distinguish it from TsUP-E at Yevpatoriya.

[123] Although Semyonov was a leading figure in the DOS programme, he probably supported Mishin on this issue simply through loyalty to his boss. However, it is also possible that Semyonov realised that owing to the problems faced by the N1 the lunar programme was likely to be cancelled, whereupon the TsKBEM’s only option would be the DOS programme.

[124] OKB-456, later to become Energomash.

[125] The loss of the OPS-1 station does not count in this context, because it was not a TsKBEM project.

[126] When launched, this was named Radio1.

[127] ‘Почему мы не слетали на Луну?’

[128] Mishin outlived his mentor, Sergey Afanasyev, by five months.

[129] It is now part of the Khrunichev Centre.

[130] RKK stands for Raketno-Kosmicheskaya Korporatsiya, which means Space Rocket Corporation.

[131] Fizichesko-Tehnicheckiy Institut.

[132] ‘Ракеты и люди’.

[133] ‘Семь шагов в небо’.

[134] ‘Траектория жизни’

[135] In fact, Kamanin’s ceased to be in charge of cosmonaut training on 25 June 1971, a few days before Soyuz 11 was due to return to Earth.

[136] ‘Скрытый космос’.

[137] Interestingly, it was at this time that the Voskhod 3 mission was cancelled, and Shatalov had been a member of the backup crew.

[138] ‘Трудные дороги космоса’.

[139] ‘Ждзнь – капля в море’.

[140] In 1999 this became the Russian Cosmonautics Federation.

[141] One Astronomical Unit (AU) is defined as the mean radius of the Earth’s orbit of the Sun.

[142] Such ships had already been named after Sergey Korolev, Vladimir Komarov, Yuriy Gagarin and Pavel Belyeyev.

[143] The fate of Cosmonaut Vladislav Volkov is uncertain. It was very likely sold to a private company and scrapped. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the largest tracking ships Academician Sergey Korolev and Cosmonaut Yuriy Gagarin were anchored in Odessa in Ukraine. Despite protests from Russia, both were sold to a private company that broke them up and sold the scrap to India in 1996.


In analysing the actions of the Soyuz 11 cosmonauts during the decompression to assess whether they might have saved themselves, there are two basic approaches. Mishin and the TsKBEM engineers concluded that the crew should have been able to halt the leak – but they had panicked and failed to identify the source of the leak in time. But General Kamanin and the military cosmonauts at the TsPK thought that the decompression occurred so rapidly that the crew had no real chance of manually closing the shutter on the leaking valve.

Of the official sources, Kamanin provided probably the most realistic description of the fateful events. As he wrote in his diary, following the braking manoeuvre the cosmonauts felt the onset of deceleration – which meant that the ship had begun its descent:

Aboard, everything is normal. However, the cosmonauts, remembering their recent difficulty with the transfer hatch, carefully monitored the pressure in the cabin. A bang is heard – there is the separation of the modules. But what is this? The pressure in the cabin begins rapidly to fall. … Decompression! After unfastening from his couch, Dobrovolskiy goes to inspect the hatch. It is airtight, but the pressure continues to fall. They can hear the whistle of air venting to space. Because of noise from the transmitters and receivers, they cannot trace the source of the whistle. Volkov and Patsayev unfasten their shoulder straps and switch off the radio apparatus. The source of the whistle is above the centre couch – where a vent valve is located. Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev attempt to close the valve, but because they are weakened they fall back to the seat. As he loses consciousness, Dobrovolskiy manages to fasten the waist lock of his entangled straps.

Mishin argued that once the crew had realised that one of the valves had opened prematurely, they should have blocked the flow by placing a thumb over the inlet.[108] Some sources have pointed to a bruise on Dobrovolskiy’s thumb as evidence that he had indeed attempted to do this. Another source says the bruise was on Patsayev thumb, although this may actually have been a reference to his facial bruise. Mishin never accepted that the crew could not have saved themselves. To the end of his life he insisted that if only they had been better trained then they would have reacted properly, and therefore probably have survived: “How can you describe the deaths of great and brave people – a disaster which caused such pain to their relatives? It is more painful to know that it was avoidable. During separation, the explosive bolts generated a force that was too strong and the ball left its nest, opening the valve prematurely. The cosmonauts could hear the air whistling. Patsayev tried to close it using his thumb, but failed. There was a manually operated shutter with which it was possible fully to protect the cabin, but they either forgot it, or did not know, or missed it in their training.’’ In another interview, Mishin again criticised the crew: “During the decompression, the air would have escaped to space at such a high speed that the men had to have heard the whistling – a signal of imminent disaster. It was necessary to unfasten the belts, to stand up and to shut the valve. They could block the valve even using a thumb! . . . But the cosmonauts were disoriented. . . . Perhaps they were lost. . . . Patsayev seems to have realised what was the matter. He unfastened from his couch, but did not have time to stand up.’’

While Mishin was trying to blame the crew and to justify the spacecraft’s design, representatives of the TsPK thought differently. In contrast to Mishin, Kamanin was confident that the crew fought to save their lives right to the end: “Is it possible to accuse them of not knowing how ‘to plug the hole in the ship by finger’? We cannot presume this to be feasible at all, as no one has yet tried to do it. Indeed, outside the ship is the deep cold of the vacuum of space, which causes the instantaneous boiling of the blood. I think even in normal conditions it would be hard to hold a finger in open space for a period as brief as several seconds. In addition, the crew had first to locate the source of the decompression and then, ‘after plugging the hole by thumb’, to retain the hermetic seal of the cabin for 15-17 minutes during which they would be subjected to the increasing deceleration loads of the descent.’’[109]

Commenting on Mishin’s claim that a man could have blocked the valve using a finger, Dr. Yevgeniy Vorobyev pointed out that in such a rapid decompression the state of consciousness would have been diminished after 20 seconds. ‘‘To unbuckle, locate the hole under the cover and block this in 20 seconds would be unrealistic. It would have been necessary to train to do so. We tested the possibility of closing the valve manually, in the case of a splashdown. Even in a calm situation, this operation took 35-40 seconds. Thus, they had no chance of surviving.’’

General Shatalov openly condemned Mishin for his ongoing efforts to blame the crew. Cosmonaut Leonov tested manually closing the valve of the Soyuz simulator in the TsPK, taking 52 seconds, which was four times longer than the time available to the Soyuz 11 crew.

Although further explanations were given in Chertok’s memoirs, colleagues of the Soyuz 11 crew – in particular Yeliseyev, Kubasov, Shatalov and Leonov, together with Viktor Patsayev’s wife Vera – contributed the most to a full understanding the tragedy.

Aleksey Yeliseyev’s insight into the valves leads to the inevitable conclusion that the tragedy ought never to have occurred!

As noted, each valve had both an automatic and a manual shutter. However, when the designers devised the valve no one considered the possibility that the automatic shutter might open spontaneously. In accordance with instructions, prior to launch both shutters (automatic and manual) on valve No. 1 were required to be closed – in the mode ‘closed-closed’. On the other hand, on valve No. 2 the automatic shutter was to be closed and the manual shutter open – in mode ‘closed – open’. What does this mean? During the descent, four pyrotechnic charges were to open the automatic shutters on both valves at an altitude of 5 km. However, because the manual shutter on valve No. 1 was closed, air would flow into the cabin only through valve No. 2, whose manual shutter was already open. As noted, the reason for there being a pair of valves was to ensure that in the event of a splashdown in which water leaked into the module through valve No. 2, there was another valve on the opposite side which would allow in air – the research cosmonaut seated near valve No. 2 would close its manual shutter to halt water penetration while the commander opened the manually operated shutter on the valve positioned directly above his couch. However, during the preparation of the ship there was a mysterious change to the procedure! Instead of being ‘closed-closed’, valve No. 1 was actually set ‘closed-open’; and instead of‘closed-open’, valve No. 2 was set ‘closed-closed’. As the valves were identical, the technicians did not pay special attention to this change.

Top: Cosmonaut Lazaryev works on the hatch inside the Soyuz simulator, with one of two valves installed in the vicinity. Three bottom photos show the opening of one of the valves (left), the control for the manually operated shutter and the ventilation switches.

A simplified depiction of the operational structure of the two ventilation valves.

As the explosive bolts were fired to separate the orbital module, the shock caused the automatic shutter on valve No. 1 to open. This valve was positioned very near to two of the bolts, and thus was exposed to the greatest stress by the explosive action. Since the manually operated shutter had been left open, air was able to leak to space. A detailed analysis of the telemetry recorded by the ‘black box’ established that the automatic control system had fired the attitude control thrusters to counter the force of the air venting at speed through this valve. After inspecting the seal of the hatch, the cosmonauts quickly realised that the automatic shutter had inadvertently opened in one of the valves. Knowing that both shutters on valve No. 1 were supposed to be closed, they directed their attention to valve No. 2, which they believed had been set to ‘closed-open’ and was ‘open-open’ as a result of the shock of firing the bolts, but in fact it was still hermetically closed. Patsayev’s effort to close the manual shutter of valve No. 2 was foiled by the fact that it had already been closed prior to launch! Realising that valve No. 2 was closed, Patsayev or Dobrovolskiy set about closing the manual shutter of valve No. 1, but managed only to partially do so before losing consciousness.

According to Yeliseyev the cosmonauts forgot, or in panic missed the fact that the order of the valves had been changed! He said: ‘‘If they had just remembered this! If even they did not recall, but they had begun to close both valves just in case, they would have saved themselves.’’ The revision to the manually operated shutters was also noticed by Kubasov, who, in addition, noted another important detail: ‘‘At the cosmodrome, according to instructions, the manually operated shutter on one of the two valves is open and on the other is closed. This is specified in both the onboard documentation and the documentation of the manufacturer. But on Soyuz 11, … according to the onboard documentation the valve that prematurely opened ought to have had its manually operated shutter closed, and in the documentation of the manufacturer it should have been open.’’ Thus we see that valve No. 1 had state

‘closed-closed’ in the onboard documentation, and the crew did not simply forget or in a blind panic miss the order of the open/closed shutters. They firstly tried to close valve No. 2 because in their documentation its manually operated shutter was specified as being open, but in reality it was closed! As in the case of the Soyuz 1 tragedy, the technicians who prepared the spacecraft had not followed the rules!

Vladimir Shatalov, who was member of the State Commission which investigated the Soyuz 11 tragedy, reported some details of his inspections related to the lack of technical discipline in the installation of the valves:

The most likely cause was a design fault or omission during the installation of the valves during the assembly of the spacecraft. Both valves had to be torqued to the certain level by using a special tool, even though access to the valves was problematic. . . .

During an inspection, it was found that for both valves the screw had not been sufficiently tightened, and the ball was free to jiggle about. When they examined the valves on already flown craft, including my Soyuz 10, it was noticed that the screws were torqued differently. The required force was 50 kg, but some of the descent modules had valves torqued at 30 kg, some at only 20 kg, and one had valves whose screws were barely tightened! There were no spacecraft already flown in space with valves torqued to the proper degree. I could not believe this. Well, it was an accident waiting to happen!

In the book Two Sides of the Moon published in 2004, Aleksey Leonov states he was in the communication centre in Kaliningrad for the undocking. As the crew worked through the checklist, he advised them to close the shutters of both valves, but to remember to reopen one once the parachute had deployed.

“Make a note of it in your logbook,’’ I instructed them.

Although this deviated from the flight regulations, I had trained for a long time for the mission they were flying, and in my opinion this was the safest procedure. According to the flight programme the vents were [to start closed] and then open automatically once the parachute had deployed after re-entry. But I believed there was a danger, if this automatic procedure was followed, that the vents might open prematurely at too high an altitude and the spacecraft [would] depressurise.

It seems the crew did not follow my advice. Unfortunately, my intuition proved right. . . .

The loss of the Soyuz 11 cosmonauts was a terrible blow to the morale of the whole corps. Everyone understood that we were in the business of testing spacecraft, and the deaths of these three men undoubtedly saved the lives of later crews, because of the substantial modifications made, but their loss was a tragedy. Not only was I deeply saddened by what had happened, but I was frustrated, too. Had I been allowed to fly in their place I am sure my crew would have survived.

Leonov also wrote that he never told anyone that the crew had failed to follow his recommendation. Many years later, Vera Patsayeva, who worked in the TsNIIMash and had access to the radio exchanges, “recognised the crew’s tragic mistake of not following my advice and made that fact public’’. He tried to avoid the children of the lost crew: “I could not bear to look into their eyes. Even though it was not my fault, I blamed myself for what had happened. It was not until much later that the children learnt how desperately I had tried to avert the tragedy.’’[110]

Leonov also noted that the cardiogram data showed that Volkov, who remained in his couch, died 80 seconds after the decompression, Patsayev after 100 seconds and Dobrovolskiy after 2 minutes. Leonov’s claim that if he had been in command then his crew would not have succumbed to such a failure was contradicted by Kubasov in an interview with Novosti kosmonavtiki, who, after analysing what they would have done, had concluded that death was inevitable.

In contrast to Mishin, who insisted that the crew had been at fault, the strongest criticism of the cosmonauts’ action ever to be made by any representative of the Air Force was Leonov’s claim that they had not accepted his advice to close both valves and reopen one after the parachute had deployed. On the other hand, this advice was contrary to the rules. It would have protected against a valve opening prematurely, but to have required that a valve be opened manually would have placed the crew at risk of asphyxiation in the event of stronger than expected dynamic loads during the re­entry rendering them unconscious – it was, after all, to preclude this outcome that the valves were designed to work automatically. But it indicates that Leonov’s crew had trained to perform re-entry differently to their backups. Furthermore, in training Leonov seems not to have described this alternative procedure to Dobrovolskiy.

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.


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.


Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev knew well the risks of the return operation, but on the third orbit after undocking from Salyut they were in excellent spirits and impatient for the landing. At 1.10 a. m. on Wednesday, 30 June, while out of radio contact over the Pacific Ocean approaching Chile, Dobrovolskiy, assisted by Volkov, oriented Soyuz 11 to position its main engine facing the direction of the flight.

One of many disputed issues concerning the final phase of this mission is the time of the last words from the crew.

The last officially published communication from Soyuz 11 was at 00.16 a. m., when Kamanin in the TsUP spoke to Dobrovolskiy, who reported that they were in the process of preparing for the orientation manoeuvre. At that time they could still see the Salyut station. Then the controller signed off with: “Good-bye Yantars, until the next communication session.”

The official sources do not give a chronology of the last conversations with the Soyuz 11 crew, or between the cosmonauts.

In his 1971 book Soviets in Space, Peter Smolders cites the following words from Dobrovolskiy as the last communication received by the TsUP: “I am beginning the descent procedure.”

Yeliseyev’s book offers the following account of the final words received by the TsUP: “The last communication session is ending. Immediately before leaving the zone of radio visibility, Volkov managed to call loudly to say: ‘Prepare cognac, see you tomorrow!’ …” However, owing to the phrase “see you tomorrow” the time of this reported communication is unclear – was it on 29 June or 30 June. Nevertheless, the words “Prepare cognac” would be a typical final message prior to an imminent reunion. It may well have been that immediately before the loss of communication Dobrovolskiy said he was “beginning the orientation” and then in the final seconds Volkov managed to add his remark.

Between 1.22.00 a. m. and 1.31.25 a. m. Soyuz 11 passed over South America and then set off across the Atlantic Ocean. As noted, for optimal visibility at the landing site the braking manoeuvre was to be made on the third orbit after undocking from the station. This was why Soyuz 11 had a different re-entry trajectory than previous missions. One circuit of the Earth lasted on average 89 minutes. During this interval the planet rotated through 22.2 degrees, so Soyuz 11 was north of the equator at the moment that the engine fired, somewhat to the north and west of the typical braking position for a Soyuz descent. The engine was fired automatically at 1.35.24 a. m., as planned. At that time, Soyuz 11 was over the Atlantic between the northeast coast of South America and the coast of Africa. The engine fired for the planned duration of 187 seconds and was automatically switched off after reducing the speed of the spacecraft by the requisite 120 m/s. Another interesting detail – in contrast to most of the previous flights, in this case the braking manoeuvre was made during the descending portion of the orbit – i. e. after the ship had passed the apogee point. Following the braking manoeuvre, the automated control system would reorient the vehicle for the separation of the modules, perform the separation, control the path of the descent module through the atmosphere in order to aim for the target, manage the parachute deployment sequence, jettison the heat shield, fire the retro-rockets and jettison the parachute. The crew were not required to participate in any of these critical operations.

Did the tracking ships in the Atlantic Ocean detect signals from Soyuz 11 during the braking manoeuvre? Chertok’s memoirs and Kamanin’s diary, two of the most widely cited sources, offer contrary accounts.

Chertok wrote:

After undocking from the station, two orbits are allowed to prepare for the descent. The crew will conduct manual orientation while out of our visibility

Soyuz ll’s descent track. (Courtesy Sven Grahn)

zone and pass control to the gyro instruments. The command for the start of the descent activity will be emitted from NIP-16, with NIP-15 as the reserve. The KTDU will fire for braking at 1 hour 47 minutes on 30 June. …

All indications on the panel were normal, and the cosmonauts reported the achievement of all operations on time. … Everything went according to the timetable. The tracking ships received information as the spacecraft passed above, and reported to the TsUP that the braking engine had operated for the estimated duration and was switched off by the integrator [when the correct velocity had been attained]. The control-measuring complex and the GOGU were satisfied with the control of the spacecraft on the landing orbit.

After engine cut-off, the spacecraft exited the communication zone of the tracking ships in the Atlantic. The orbital module and the propulsion module were jettisoned from the descent module while passing over Africa.

Based on this, we can conclude that the TsUP had information from “the tracking ships” that the braking engine was fired and shut off as expected, and that Soyuz 11 then re-entered as planned. Also, Chertok implies that several ships were involved in tracking this particular re-entry! Furthermore, he said that Soyuz 11 left the radio zone of the ships when the main engine switched off, which is a point also made by the official TASS report (see the next chapter). However, he was mistaken in giving the time of the braking manoeuvre as 1.47 a. m. (this was the time that the modules were separated) and incorrect in saying that the separation occurred above Africa (it was the typical scenario for the previous Soyuz missions, but not in this case).

Another author, Colonel Ivan Borisenko, the ‘Sporting Commissar’, has said that communication was briefly established with Soyuz 11 about this time, then lost at the moment of the separation of the modules.

However, in his diary entry of 30 June General Kamanin says:

According to the re-entry programme, the KTDU must start at 01.35.24 and should turn off after 187 seconds. We impatiently waited for a report of the braking manoeuvre. Shatalov repeatedly called Yantar on line, but there was no response from the crew. …

At 1.47.28 the separation must occur, … but there are no reports about this. We did not know whether Soyuz 11 had begun the descent, or had remained in orbit. The period of communication calculated for the case of the ship not leaving orbit (01.49.37-02.04.07) began. There was an oppressive silence in the room. There was no communication with the crew or any new data about Soyuz 11. Everyone understood that something had occurred aboard the spacecraft, but no one knew what. The minutes of expectation passed terribly slowly.

So, according to Kamanin, no one in the TsUP knew whether the main engine had fired on time or if the braking manoeuvre had been completed. He did not mention receiving the information from the tracking ships in the Atlantic that Chertok cited. There was no response from the spacecraft to Shatalov’s calls. The silence from the spacecraft shortly before, during, and after the braking manoeuvre,

which was about ten minutes before the separation of the modules, is another interesting detail. With the exception of Kamanin, no other source (Chertok, Yeliseyev, Feoktistov, Rebrov, and others) spoke of the silence of the crew in the braking period – while Soyuz 11 was passing over the tracking ships. Yeliseyev, who was in the TsUP with Kamanin, Chertok, Feoktistov and others, did not refer to tension in the control room owing to uncertainty concerning the braking manoeuvre. He wrote nothing about the tracking ships and signals they might have received from Soyuz 11; only of data from the radar stations which detected the descent module after its path had carried it onto Soviet territory.

So what really happened? Let us consider the tracking ships in the Atlantic. Due to the position of Soyuz 11 during the braking manoeuvre, only a ship located in the equatorial region could have received a transmission during this time. Bezhitsa was at its operating station near the coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, at 1.5 degrees south, 13 degrees west, until 29 June. From this station, it would have had two or three opportunities each day to monitor the success of the braking manoeuvre. But it had been at sea for four months, and was low on provisions. It was to sail to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands in early July for replenishment. Since this station was of crucial importance to monitoring Soyuz 11 during its braking manoeuvre, it was decided that Kegostrov, in the South Atlantic at 22 degrees south, 24 degrees west, should move to relieve Bezhitsa. On 29 June Bezhitsa received an unexpected order to leave its station. Amazingly, it left before Kegostrov arrived to replace it! On the morning of 30 June, local time, when it was realised that Kegostrov would not be in position before Soyuz ll’s braking manoeuvre, the head of the Soviet Naval Fleet personally ordered Bezhitsa’s captain to urgently return to his previous station so as to monitor the braking manoeuvre – not just the telemetry but also the commentary from the crew. However, it was apparent that Bezhitsa would not be able to resume its former station in time.[100]

Why was Soyuz 11 allowed to proceed with the undocking and return to Earth if a tracking ship to monitor the braking manoeuvre was absent? As noted, in planning the mission there were discussions about whether it should be for 45, 30 or 25 days. Finally, guided by the ballistics, Mishin had decided to accept the ‘25’-day duration and shorten it by one day, with the landing on 30 June instead of 1 July. This is the first important detail to consider when pondering the reasons for Soyuz ll’s return without a tracking ship in this key position. It would appear that in the final stage of the mission the usually excellent co-ordination between the TsUP (in fact, the State Commission) and the Soviet Naval Fleet failed, causing Bezhitsa to leave its station prior to the arrival of Kegostrov. In addition, there had been a dispute between the Air Force (Kamanin) and the TsKBEM (Tregub) about whether Soyuz 11 should return on the second or the third orbit after it undocked from the station. A return on the second orbit would have taken the familiar route across Africa, but would have meant landing in darkness. During the additional orbit, the eastward rotation of the Earth displaced the longitude at which the spacecraft would perform its

The tracking ship Bezhitsa was unable to monitor Soyuz ll’s braking manoeuvre.

northward crossing of the equator 22 degrees to the west.[101] The descent trajectory for Soyuz 11 was therefore different to the one with which everybody was familiar – as indicated by the mistake in Chertok’s account. Instead of firing the main engine while passing above the Gulf of Guinea, where Bezhitsa was to have been, the braking manoeuvre started at 10 degrees north, 40 degrees west, and was concluded at 29 degrees north, 32 degrees west. At Soyuz ll’s altitude, the communication zones of Bezhitsa and Kegostrov were about 15 degrees in radius, but beyond about 10 degrees the signal was weak. In fact, not only was Bezhitsa off-station when the spacecraft performed its braking manoeuvre, that fact that it was sailing at maximum speed in an effort to resume its station meant that it did not even attempt to listen. And Kegostrov, being even further away, could not have received a signal from Soyuz 11 at the vital time. This is why (as Kamanin noted) no one in the TsUP knew whether the spacecraft had made the manoeuvre. And, of course, even if one of these two ships had been in position, neither was equipped to relay the VHF transmission from the spacecraft to the TsUP, which is why the control room did not hear the cosmonauts’ voices, only “silence”. Academician Sergey Korolev and Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov were equipped to relay signals from a spacecraft to the TsUP, but only when a Molniya satellite was conveniently positioned, and in this case Komarov was out of service and Korolev was in the North Atlantic and too far away to receive signals during the spacecraft’s braking manoeuvre.