4. Performing the first successful crew exchange in space on January 14, 1969, the crews of the Soyuz 4 and 5 beat their American counterparts by two months and did so externally via a “space walk”
Launching Soyuz 4 on January 14, 1969, carrying a single cosmonaut, Vladimir Shatalov, Soyuz 5 departed Earth the following day with a three-person crew. Their collective mission, attempted previously and unsuccessfully, was to transfer two members of the crew of Soyuz 5 into Soyuz 4 before safely returning all parties back to Earth. Soyuz 4 served as the active vehicle in the docking, attaching itself to its sister ship. Using a pulley-and-cable system to ensure a safe “space-walk”, the two exchanging crew, Khrunov and Yeliseyev, carried with them newspapers printed after the departure of Soyuz 4 the previous day to prove the veracity of their accomplishment.
Separating after just four hours and thirty-five minutes attached, the spacecraft began preparations for re-entry after the successful and historic operation. This process was not without incident, with the service module of Soyuz 5 failing to separate and causing the spacecraft to enter the atmosphere nose-first. Leaving the only remaining crew member, Boris Volynov, hanging by his straps, the atmosphere almost burned through the escape hatch into his compartment. Adding insult to injury, the parachute lines and landing rockets malfunctioned, precipitating a hard landing in which Volynov shattered several of his teeth.