20 Important Historical Firsts Achieved by the Soviet Space Program
20 Important Historical Firsts Achieved by the Soviet Space Program

20 Important Historical Firsts Achieved by the Soviet Space Program

Steve - March 3, 2019

20 Important Historical Firsts Achieved by the Soviet Space Program
The view of the world’s first space station, the Soviet Salyut 1, as seen from the departing Soyuz 11 (c. June 30, 1971). Wikimedia Commons.

2. Serving as the first crewed space station in 1971, Salyut 1 laid the foundations for long-term human habitation outside of our native Earth but at a heavy price

Developing out of the top-secret Soviet military space station program “Almaz”, following the landmark Apollo 11 mission the Soviets shifted focus towards the construction of a space station in order to regain prestige after suffering defeat in the race to the Moon. Beginning construction in early 1970, the space station was launched on April 19, 1971, to become the first space station in Earth’s orbit. On April 24, the first crew for Salyut 1 arrived on board the Soyuz 10 and attempted to dock with the space station. However, due to technical malfunctions, this was unsuccessful and the crew were forced to return to Earth.

On June 6, a replacement crew aboard the Soyuz 11 departed for the station. Arriving the following day, after almost three and a half hours of careful docking the crew were able to enter and man Salyut 1. However, suffering another misfortune, on June 29, after just 23 days and 362 orbits, sustained problems including an electrical fire demanded the mission be aborted. Disembarking aboard Soyuz 11, during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere a pressure valve malfunctioned causing a loss of cabin pressure. Not wearing pressure suits, all three members of the crew were found dead upon landing on June 30.

20 Important Historical Firsts Achieved by the Soviet Space Program
The historic handshake between Stafford and Leonov (c. July 17, 1975). Wikimedia Commons.

1. Serving as the final act in the protracted space race, in July 1975 the United States and the Soviet Union put aside their rivalries to share the honor of staging the first multinational crewed mission in space

A symbol of the ongoing détente – a relaxation of the hostilities between the competing superpowers – the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project demonstrated the potential of humanity in outer space without rivalry and marked the end of the Space Race which had begun almost twenty years prior. Involving the docking of an Apollo Command Module, surplus and repurposed from the Apollo program, and a Soviet spacecraft, the Soyuz 19, both two-man crews launched on July 15, 1975, to prepare for docking two days later. Among the Soviets, was Alexey Leonov, the first man to walk in space a decade earlier.

Spending a total of 44 hours together, during which time President Gerald Ford phoned the crew and gifts were exchanged, the American crew maneuvered their spacecraft to create an artificial solar eclipse to allow the Soviets to photograph the solar corona before returning to Earth. Sadly, despite hopes at the time of the mission that it might result in space, and even politics in general, becoming less competitive between the two nations, the legacy of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was limited. Both nations renewed national enterprises as the Cold War heated upon once more, with international cooperation not restarting until the 1990s with the International Space Station.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Rockets and People: Creating a Rocket Industry”, Boris Chertok, U.S. Government Printing Office (2006)

“Sputnik: The Shock of the Century”, Paul Dickson, Walker & Co (2007)

“Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment: The Race for Space and World Prestige”, Yanek Mieczkowski, Cornell University Press (2013)

“Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge”, Asif A. Siddiqi, The University of Florida Press (2003)

“The Complete Book of Spaceflight: From Apollo 1 to Zero Gravity”, David Darling, John Wiley & Sons (2003)

“Soviet and Russian Lunar Exploration”, Brian Harvey, Springer Publishing (2006)

“Russian Space Probes: Scientific Discoveries and Future Missions”, Brian Harvey, Springer Publishing (2011)

“The Soviet Space Race with Apollo”, Asif A, Siddiqi, The University of Florida Press (2003)

“Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon”, James J. Harford, John Wiley & Sons (1997)

“The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team: Their Lives, Legacy, and Historical Impact”, Colin Burgess and Rex Hall, Praxis (2008)

“The Rocket Men: Vostok & Voskhod, The First Soviet Manned Spaceflights”, Rex Hall and David Shayler, Springer Publishing (May 18, 2001)

“Russia in Space: The Failed Frontier?”, Brian Harvey, Springer-Praxis Books (2001)

“Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965”, Francis French and Colin Burgess, University of Nebraska Press (2007)

“Space for Women: A History of Women With the Right Stuff”, Pamela Freni, Seven Locks Press (2002)

“Manned Spacecraft”, Kenneth Gatland, Macmillan Publishing (1976)

“The Right Stuff”, Tom Wolfe, Bantam Books (1979)

“Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974”, Asif A. Siddiqi, NASA (2011)

“The Rocket Men: Vostok and Voskhod, the First Soviet Manned Spaceflights”, Rex Hall and David J. Shayler, Springer Books (2001)

“The Nightmare of Voskhod 2”, Alexei Leonov, Air and Space Magazine (January 1, 2005)

“1966: Soviets Land Probe on Moon”, BBC (February 3, 1966)

“Is My Hair Grey”: The Story of Soyuz 4 and 5 (Part 2)”, Ben Evans, AmericaSpace (January 5, 2014)

“Lunokhod 1: 1st Successful Lunar Rover”, Elizabeth Howell, Space.com (December 19, 2016)

“Lost and Found: Soviet Lunar Rover”, Irene Klotz, Seeker (April 27, 2010)

“The Story of Manned Space Stations: An Introduction”, Philip Baker, Springer-Praxis Books (2007)

“Salyut – The First Space Station: Triumph and Tragedy”, Grujica S. Ivanovich, Springer-Praxis Books (2008)

“Deke! U.S. Manned Space: From Mercury to the Shuttle”, Donald Slayton and Michael Cassutt, Forge Publishing (1994)

“The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project”, Edward Clinton Ezell and Linda Neuman Ezell, NASA History Series (1978)

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