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Historical aspects of the early Soviet/Russian manned space program - page 10 / 12





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rate rose to 112 beats/min and the respiration rate was in the range of 25–30 breaths/min.

March 18, 1965; again, this is a remarkable example of Soviet seat-of-the-pants resourcefulness.

However, the reentry and landing did not go accord- ing to plan and here are excerpts from Gagarin’s ac- count (Ref. 5, p. 173–174)

At precisely the appointed time the third [reentry] command was issued . . . . I felt the braking rocket kick in . . . . The braking rocket operated for exactly 40 seconds . . . . As soon as [it] shut off there was a sharp jolt, and the craft began to rotate around its axis at a very high velocity . . . . about 30 degrees per second at least . . . . I waited for the separation. There wasn’t any. I knew that, according to plan, that was to occur 10–12 seconds after the braking rocket switched on. I decided that something was wrong . . . . I estimated that all the same I would land normally . . . . The Soviet Union was 8000 km long, which meant I would land somewhere in the far east . . . . I reasoned that it was not an emer- gency situation. I transmitted the all-normal signal with a key.

The craft’s rotation was beginning to slow, but it was about all 3 axes . . . . Suddenly, a bright crimson light appeared along the edges of the shade . . . . I felt the oscillations of the craft and the burning of the coating . . . . It was audibly crackling. Then the g-load began to steadily increase. It felt as if the g-load was 10 g. There was a moment for about 2–3 seconds when the indica- tors on the instruments began to become fuzzy. Every- thing seemed to go gray.

I’m awaiting the ejection . . . . At an altitude of ap- proximately 7000 m hatch number 1 was shot off . . . . I’m sitting there thinking, that wasn’t me that was ejected, was it? Then I calmly turned my head upward, and at that moment the firing occurred and I was ejected . . . . without a hitch. I didn’t hit anything . . . . I flew out in the seat.

I immediately saw a large river. I thought that’s the Volga . . . . When I was parachute training, we had jumped many times over this very site. I see that I am going to land in a plowed field . . . . The landing was very soft . . . . I was alive and well.

The spacecraft called Voskhod that was used was a larger version of Vostok in which Gagarin had been launched 4 yr earlier. For the second flight of Voskhod, it was fitted with a collapsible cylindrical airlock about 1 m in diameter and 2.5 m long with hatches at both ends. The airlock was stove-piped into the side of the spacecraft and constructed of a double-thickness rub- ber-like material covered with protective fabric. It was folded down like an accordion in the shroud of the spacecraft during liftoff and was subsequently ex- panded. This arrangement allowed the cosmonaut to enter the airlock, close a hatch in the spacecraft wall, decompress to the hard vacuum of space, and then open another hatch and emerge at the other end. The pressure suit itself was developed in only 9 mo, and it was necessary for Leonov to prebreathe oxygen for some time to washout the body nitrogen and so avoid decompression sickness (bends). The atmosphere of all the Soviet spacecraft was air at 760 Torr pressure. At the end of the EVA period when the cosmonaut was safely back in the capsule, the airlock was unfastened and allowed to drift away. It is difficult to imagine relying on such a makeshift device, but it worked. There is an unforgettable television sequence showing Leonov pushing off from the airlock and floating out into space waving his right hand while tethered by an umbilical (Fig. 9). His account in his own words is dramatic (8).

The photographs of Leonov floating alone in space provided another sensation throughout the world. However, what was not known at the time was that a crisis developed when he tried to reenter the air- lock. As he describes in the documentary, his space- suit had expanded so much that it took him 12 min of

I went up on a knoll and saw a woman and a little girl coming toward me . . . . . I saw the woman slow her pace, and the little girl broke away . . . . I began to wave my arms and yell “I am one of yours, a Soviet, don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, come here . . . .” I went up to her and said I was a Soviet and that I had come from space.

There is no doubt that Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin had the right stuff!






Aleksei Arkhipovich Leonov (1934–) comes over in the television documentaries, especially in Russian Right Stuff (11), as one of the most engaging personal- ities in the early Soviet manned space program. He recounts how Korolev told him in 1962, “Any sailor on a ship has to know how to swim, and so each cosmo- naut has to know how to swim and do construction work outside his vehicle in space. Now orlyonok [ea- glet], put on a space suit and go through the procedures for the engineers.” In fact, Leonov became the first human being to perform EVA or space walking on

Fig. 9. Aleksei Arkhipovich Leonov (1934–) performing the first extravehicular activity or space walk (from Ref. 10).

J Appl Physiol VOL 91 OCTOBER 2001 www.jap.org

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