At 12:20 UTC, 15 July 1975, Soyuz 19 launched from Gagarin’s Start at Baikonur Cosmosdrome, Kazakh SSR with Alexei Leonov and Valeri Kubasov, both on their second space flights. The launch vehicle was a Soyuz-U three-stage rocket.
At 19:50 UTC, 15 July 1975, Apollo ASTP lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The crew was Thomas P. Stafford on his fourth space flight, Vance D. Brand on his first, and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton also on his first. The launch vehicle was a Saturn IB.
At 16:19:09 UTC, 17 July 1975, the two orbiting spacecraft rendezvoused in orbit and docked. Using a Docking Module airlock, the two crews each opened their spacecraft hatches and shook hands. The two ships remained joined for 44 hours, separating once for the Soyuz crew to take its turn to maneuver for docking with the Apollo Command and Service Module.
The Apollo command module from the mission is on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The descent module of Soyuz 19 is on display at the RKK Energiya museum in Korolyov, Moscow Oblast, Russia.
This was the final flight of the Apollo spacecraft.
30 June 1971: The Soyuz 11 crew, Cosmonauts Georgiy Timofeyevich Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Nikolayevich Volkov and Viktor Ivanovich Patsayev, ended their 22 days aboard the Salyut 1 space station in Earth orbit and began their return to Earth. At 2128 hours on the 29th, they undocked and completed three more orbits while they prepared for reentry.
At 0135 hours, the Soyuz spacecraft retrorockets fired to decelerate the ship so it would drop back into the atmosphere. 12 minutes, 15 seconds later, at an altitude of 104 miles (168 kilometers), a series of explosive bolts which connected the descent module to the service module detonated. They were intended to fire individually to limit the force on the capsule. Instead, they all fired simultaneously. The impulse caused a seal in a pressure-equalization valve to fail and the capsule depressurized. Within 3 minutes, 32 seconds, the capsule’s atmospheric pressure had dropped to zero.
The cosmonauts were not wearing pressure suits. They died in less than one minute.
Georgiy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev are the only people from Earth to have died in space since manned space flight began, 12 April 1961, with the flight of Yuri Gagarin.
16 June 1963, 09:29:52 UTC: Cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (Валенти́на Влади́мировна Терешко́ва) was launched aboard Vostok 6 from Gagarin’s Start, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The spacecraft was a Vostok 3KA and the launch vehicle was a Vostok 8K72K rocket. She was the first human female in space.
Prior to her acceptance in the cosmonaut corps, Tereshkova had been a textile worker. She was also an amateur parachutist. The qualifications for the Soviet space program were that the women be parachutists under the age of 30 years, less than 170 centimeters (5 feet, 7 inches) tall and weigh less than 70 kilograms (154.3 pounds). After an extensive training program with included pilot training in the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG 15UTI fighter and 120 parachute jumps, Tereshkova and three other women were commissioned as Junior Lieutenants in the Soviet Air Force.
Vostok 5 with Cosmonaut Valery Fyodorovich Bykovsky had been launched two days earlier on the same orbital path. During their flights they came within approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of each other.
Valentina Tereshkova completed 48 orbits of the Earth, reaching a maximum altitude of 212 kilometers (131.7 miles). Vostok 6 re-entered the atmosphere and Tereshkova parachuted from the capsule near the Pavinskiy Collective Farms, Altai Krai (approximately 150 miles/240 kilometers southwest of Novosibirsk), landing at 08:20 UTC, 19 June 1963. The total duration of her flight was 2 days, 22 hours, 50 minutes.
The Vostok 3KA spacecraft consisted of a spherical crew module and a service module. It could support one person in a full-pressure suit for a maximum of 10 days. There were two view ports. The Vostok used pressurized gas jets for attitude control while in orbit, but was not capable of changing its orbit. The vehicle had a total height of 4.40 meters (14 feet, 5¼ inches) and total mass of 4,730 kilograms (10,428 pounds). The descent module diameter was 2.3 meters (7 feet, 6½ inches) and had a mass of 2,460 kilograms (5,423 pounds).
On descent, the cosmonaut used an ejection seat to leave the capsule prior to Earth landing, and parachuted to the ground.
The Korolev Design Bureau Vostok 8K72K launch vehicle was a three-stage liquid-fueled rocket developed from the Soviet R-7 “Semyorka” intercontinental ballistic missile, using RP-1, a highly refined form of kerosene, and liquid oxygen as propellant. It was 38.36 meters (125 feet, 10 inches) tall and had a maximum diameter of 10.3 meters (33 feet, 9 inches). Total mass at liftoff was 287,375 kilograms (633,553 pounds).
The first stage consisted of four boosters surrounding a central core. Each was powered by one Glushko Design Bureau RD-108 (8D75) engine with four combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles. The RD-108 was rated at 713.600 kilonewtons of thrust (160,424 pounds-force) at Sea Level. Burn time was 118 seconds. The second stage used one RD-108 engine fired for 301 seconds. The third stage had one Kosberg Design Bureau RD-0109 engine rated at 54.520 kilonewtons (12,257 pounds-force) of thrust, with a burn time of 365 seconds.
23–24 April 1967: At 00:35:00 UTC, 23 April, Soyuz-1, the first manned flight of the Soyuz 7K-OK spacecraft, was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome Pad 1/5 (Gagarin’s Start). On this first test flight, only one person was aboard the craft, which had been designed to carry three cosmonauts. Colonel Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov was the pilot. He had previously flown Voskhod-1, a 24-hour mission, in 1964.
The mission plan called for a second spacecraft, Soyuz-2, to be launched on the 24th, with a three-man crew. A rendezvous in orbit would be made.
Soyuz-1 was not ready to be flown. More than 200 faults were known, but the pressures brought about by politics required that the launch proceed.
On reaching orbit, two solar arrays were to deploy to provide electrical power for the spacecraft’s batteries. One panel did not deploy and this severely limited the power available.
The Soyuz stabilization system relied on sensors which would detect certain stars to provide orientation, but the failed solar panel covered them. Within a few orbits the system failed completely. Komarov used the ship’s thrusters to manually control stability, but this was only marginally effective.
There were also communications difficulties. With electrical power diminishing and reaction fuel being spent, the main goals of the mission could no longer be achieved. After 13 orbits it was decided to abort the mission.
Komarov had to manually align the Soyuz-1 during the daylight phase of orbit 18. Gyroscopic stabilizers were supposed to maintain that alignment as the spacecraft passed into darkness. Komarov would once again align the craft when it came around into light, and hold that alignment through the reentry deceleration.
For some reason, the braking engine was 2 minutes, 23.5 seconds late in firing. The deceleration burn was planned for 2 minutes, 30 seconds, but an automatic system, recognizing that the gyro system was not holding the proper alignment, cut off the engine 4 seconds early. This meant that the Soyuz would travel farther down range than intended, and would not have slowed quite as much, although it was enough for re-entry.
Soyuz-1 impacted the Earth at 03:22:52 UTC, 1.9 miles (3.06 kilometers) to the west of Karabutak, Orenburg Oblast, at speeds estimated at from 30–40 meters per second (67–89 miles per hour) to as high as 640 kilometers per hour (398 miles per hour). It is believed that Vladimir Komarov died from injuries sustained at this time.
He was the first person to die during a space flight.
A rescue helicopter quickly located the Soyuz reentry module which was lying on its side in an open field with its parachute alongside. The rescuers reportedly saw the soft-landing rockets fire, which they should have done just before the module’s impact.
The module was on fire and by the time rescuers reached it, it was fully involved and molten metal was spreading on the ground. After expending their fire extinguishers, the rescuers tried to put of the fire by shoveling dirt on to it, but the the capsule completely collapsed.
Doctors on the scene pronounced Vladamir Komarov dead, with injuries to his skull, spinal cord, and numerous broken bones resulting from the impact. His body was completely burned. A postmortem examination at Moscow confirmed that the cosmonaut had been killed by the capsule’s impact.
Several theories have been published as explanation for the failure of the spacecraft’s parachute to safely slow Komarov’s descent, though with the craft completely destroyed by fire, it is unlikely that there could be any certainty. The official finding is that the drogue parachute did not apply enough force to pull the main parachute free. A backup parachute was deployed manually by Komarov but it fouled in the drogue ‘chute and did not open sufficiently to brake the craft.
Another theory is that a pressure sensor malfunctioned which prevented the automatic deployment of the main parachute. The drogue ‘chute should have been released at that time, but was not, which resulted in the reserve parachute fouling.
Third is that during an autoclaving operation the parachutes may have been contaminated with an adhesive substance.
And another story is this: During the design of Soyuz-1, the thickness of the heat shield was increased, and so the weight of the spacecraft went up. Engineers increased the size of the main parachute accordingly. But the compartment that it was to be stored in remained the same size. The fit was so tight that when the parachute was being installed, technicians had to hammer it into place with wooden mallets.
Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov was born at Moscow, Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic (RSFSR), 16 March 1927. His father was killed early in The Great Patriotic War (World War II). At the age of 15 years, Vladimir Mikhailovich entered the 1st Moscow Special Air Force School and graduated in 1945. He then went to Sasovskoye for initial pilot training, and then to the Borisoglebsk Air Force Pilot School. In 1946 he was transferred to the A.K. Serov Bataisk Military Aviation School. He received his pilot’s wings and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Soviet Air Force, 10 December 1949.
Lieutenant Komarov served as a fighter pilot of the 383rd Fighter Aviation Regiment at Grozny. The regiment was transitioning from the Mikoyan-Guervich MiG-9 turbojet-powered fighter to the new swept-wing MiG-15. While there, he met his future wife, Valentina Yakovlevna Kiselyova, a recent graduate of the Grozny Teachers’ Training Institute. They were married in 1950. They had two children, Yevgeny and Irina.
In 1952, Senior Lieutenant Komarov was assigned as senior pilot of the 486th Fighter Aviation Regiment, flying the MiG-15 and MiG-17. In 1954 he applied to attend the N.E. Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy, from which he graduated in 1959. Promoted to Senior Lieutenant-Engineer, he was assigned as a test pilot at the Central Scientific Research Institute.
After promotion to captain-engineer, 3 September 1960, Komarov was selected for the first group of Soviet cosmonauts. He was older than most of the group, but was well liked and respected.
Colonel-Engineer Vladimir Mihailovich Komarov, Pilot-Cosmonaut of the USSR, was twice named Hero of the Soviet Union. He had also been awarded the Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Star, as well as several other decorations.
Following a state funeral, the cosmonaut’s ashes were interred in the Kremlin Wall at Red Square.
12 April 1961: At 06:06:59.7 UTC, Vostok-1 with Cosmonaut Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin was launched into Earth orbit from the Kosmodrom Baykonur, Kazakhistan. The spacecraft was a spherical Vostok 3KA-3 capsule which was carried to low Earth orbit by a three-stage Vostok 8K72K rocket.
Following first stage engine cut off, the first stage was jettisoned 1 minute, 59 seconds after liftoff. The payload fairing separated at 2 minutes, 34 seconds., and the second stage separation occurred at 4 minutes, 59 seconds. The Vostok spacecraft separated from the third stage at 06:18:28 UTC, 11 minutes 28 seconds after launch.
The Vostok was not capable of orbital maneuvering.
The Vostok spacecraft had an overall length of 5.040 meters (16 feet, 6.4 inches) and diameter of 2.500 meters ( 8 feet, 2.4 inches). The spherical crew/descent module had a diameter of 2.300 meters (7 feet, 6.6 inches). The gross mass was 4,730 kilograms (10,428 pounds).
The Vostok-K 8K72 was a modified R-7A Semyorka intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 rocket was designed by Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, known as The Chief Designer.
The 8K72 version consisted of two core stages with four external boosters. The first stage and each of the boosters were powered by a four-nozzle RD-107 rocket engine burning kerosene and liquid oxygen. Total thrust was approximately 1,100,775 pounds of thrust (4,896.49 kilonewtons). The second stage used a RD-0105 engine, producing 11,015 pounds of thrust (48.997 kilonewtons).
The first two stages were 30.84 meters (101.18 feet) high and weighed 277,000 kilograms (610,680 pounds).
Gagarin made one orbit of the Earth, with an apogee of 315 kilometers and perigee of 169 kilometers. The orbital period was 89.34 minutes. The orbit was inclined 64.95° with reference to Earth’s axis.
While still in Earth orbit, Senior Lieutenant Gagarin received a field promotion to the rank of major.
His reentry began over Africa, with the descent engine firing at 7:25:48.2 UTC. As the spacecraft was descending through 7,000 meters (20,966 feet), he ejected from the capsule and parachuted to the ground. The Vostok struck the ground at 07:48 UTC, and Gagarin landed approximately 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) away, near the village of Smelovka, Ternovsky District, Saratov Oblast, at 07:53 UTC.
Yuri Gagarin was the first human to travel in space. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) credited him with three World Records: Duration, 1 hour, 48 minutes.¹ Altitude in an Elliptical orbit, 327 kilometers (203 statute miles).² Greatest Mass Lifted to Altitude, 4,725 kilograms (10,417 pounds).³
Yuriy Alekseyevich Gagarin (Юрий Алексеевич Гагарин) was born at Klushino, a village in Smolensk Oblast, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, 9 March 1934. He was the third of four children of Alexey Ivanovich Gagarin, a carpenter, and Anna Timofeyevna Gagarina. The family, workers on a collective farm, were forced from their home when the village was occupied by German soldiers during the invasion of 1941.
In 1950, Gagarin became an apprentice at a steel foundry in Moscow. A school for workers allowed him to pursue an education. After a year, he was sent to a technical school at Saratov. It was while there that Gagarin first flew in an airplane, a Yakovlev Yak-18 trainer at the local aero club.
After graduating in 1955, Gagarin enlisted as a cadet at the military flight school at Orenburg. Gagarin graduated 6 November 1957 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Soviet Air Force.
Just over a week earlier, 27 October 1957, Sergeant Gagarin married Valentina Ivanova Goryacheva, a medical technician at the air base. They would have two daughters.
Lieutenant Gagarin was assigned as an interceptor pilot at Nikel, an air base approximately 125 miles (201 kilometers) north of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula. He flew the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighter.
Lieutenant Gagarin was one of twenty pilots selected for the space program in 1960. This was further reduced to six cosmonaut candidates. Gagarin and Gherman Stepanovich Titov were the final two candidates for the first manned space launch, with Gagarin being chosen.
Yuri Gagarin was killed in an airplane crash, 27 March 1968.
¹ FAI Record File Number 9326
² FAI Record File Number 9327
³ FAI Record File Number 9328
⁴ “Most of the cosmonaut group of 1960, with some of their instructors and wives. Front row, left to right: Pavel Popovich, Viktor Gorbatko, Yevgeni Khrunov, Yuri Gagarin, Chief Designer Sergei Korolev, his wife Nina Koroleva with Popovich’s daughter Natasha, Cosmonaut Training Centre Director Yevgeni Karpov, parachute trainer Nikolai Nikitin, and physician Yevgeni Fedorov. Second row, left to right: Alexei Leonov, Andrian Nikolayev, Mars Rafikov, Dmitri Zaikin, Boris Volynov, Gherman Titov, Grigori Nelyubov, Valeri Bykovsky, and Georgi Shonin. Back row, left to right: Valentin Filatyev, Ivan Anikeyev, and Pavel Belyayev.”