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Soyuz-5 Painting of Soyuz 5 burning through atmosphere.
Mishaps of the Space Age
1969: Soyuz 5

As part of the reentry procedure at the end of his flight aboard Soyuz 5, cosmonaut Boris Volynov had to jettison his spacecraft's extra modules. But when he fired the explosive separation bolts, the Equipment Module failed to fully separate and blocked the ship's heat shield. Volynov lost control, and the Soyuz 5 began to tumble in space. It finally stabilized but with its nose, the thinnest part of the vehicle, facing forward. As the vehicle entered the atmosphere, it began to burn up and its structure to fail. Miraculously, stresses on the ship finally dislodged the Equipment Module, and the ship righted itself.

Volynov's troubles were not over, however. Damaged during reentry, the spacecraft's parachutes only partially deployed, making for a near-fatal landing. When ground searchers finally found the wrecked spacecraft, Volynov was not there. He had staggered to a nearby peasant hut, where he had kept warm until the rescue team discovered him.


Continue: 1970

Image: Ichimatsu Magura/Newton Press.

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