Encyclopedia Astronautica
1969.01.18 - Landing of Soyuz 5


After Shatalov and Yeliseyev transferred to Soyuz 4, Volynov remained behind to live through the most unbelievable re-entry in the history of spaceflight. The service module of the Soyuz failed to separate after retrofire. Once the Soyuz started reaching the tendrils of the atmosphere, the combined spacecraft sought the most aerodynamically stable position - nose forward, with the heavy descent module with its light metal entry hatch at the front, the less dense service module with its flared base to the back. Luckily the struts between the descent and service modules broke off or burned through before the hatch melted through and the descent module righted itself, with the heat shield to the rear, before being consumed. Due to a failure of the soft-landing rockets the landing was harder than usual and Volynov broke his teeth. The landing came at 7:58 GMT.

At 05:00 Belyayev serves as capcom for a communications session with Volynov aboard Soyuz 5. All is OK. At 06:00 the landing commission convenes. A landing during the next three orbits is possible, but then -35 deg C anticyclonic conditions will move into the landing area. Volynov, at ground control's request, is asked to test manual orientation for retrofire on orbit 30. He is able to hold the correct orientation for 9 minutes -- only 2 minutes is required for retrofire. It is decided to take the risk of a manual landing on the first landing orbit. But discussion with Volynov reveals he has already set up all systems for automatic retrofire sequence on the second landing orbit. He tries, but is unable to set up correct retrofire attitude in the first two minutes of daylight of the first landing orbit. So the manual attempt is aborted and the program reverts to the original automatic landing on the second landing orbit. Mishin is not available for any of these key decisions. He spent the entire previous night at a banquet feting the Soyuz 4 crew, and only arrived at the command post still hung over and drunk at 8 am. Meanwhile Volynov experiences a reverse re-entry, following which is parachute wouldn't open automatically. The result were high-G forces and a landing 12 minutes earlier than planned. At 21:00 Brezhnev calls to try to find out what the hell is going on.

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