Monday, June 30, 2008

A sad day in Space History

Today marks the 37th anniversary of one of the saddest days in space history when the seemingly triumphant Soviet Soyuz 11 mission ended in the deaths of three cosmonauts.

In what appeared to be one last effort to get one over on the Americans, the Soviets had sent a three-man crew to the world's first space station, Salyut 1 where they had conducted experiments in earth orbit for 23 days.

The Soyuz craft separated successfully from Salyut and appeared to return to earth successfully to a soft landing on the Kazakh steppe.

However, the capsule was opened and the crew was found dead. Investigators later discovered that a valve had opened just prior to leaving orbit that had allowed the capsule's atmosphere to vent away into space, suffocating the crew. The three Cosmonauts who lost their lives were:

Commander Georgi Dobrovolski
Flight Engineer Vladislav Volkov; and
Test Engineer Viktor Patsayev.

Like the Americans before them (after the Apollo 1 crash), the Soviets were forced to completely re-engineer their Soyuz craft. For the ext nine years, until the Soyuz-T came into service, the craft would carry only two cosmonauts, each wearing a pressurised space suit.

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