Thirteen seconds to eternity


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

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

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