Status: Inactive; Active 1962-1969. Born: 1941-07-14. Died: 2018-08-28. Birth Place: Gorki.
Graduated from Military Engineering Academy, Monino, 1969, with an engineering diploma in electronics Civilian Parachutist. Soviet Air Force. Cosmonaut training April 1962 - 21 January 1965. Chief of Geophysical Laboratory of TsPK. From 1991 retired from active duty. After marriage to a former cosmonaut candidate her family name was Pitskhelauri.
On this day Kamanin and his staff interviewed 23 of the 58 female cosmonaut candidates. His first impression is that they were all unqualified. What is needed is women who are young, physically fit, and have also completed flight and parachute training of at least five to six months duration.
The group was selected to provide female astronauts for the Vostok manned spaceflight program.. Qualifications: Parachutists under 30 years of age; under 170 cm tall; under 70 kg in weight.. Cosmonaut commander Nikolai Kamanin obtained official approval to train a cadre of female cosmonauts in October 1961. The pool of Soviet female pilots being limited, potential candidates were also sought who were active sport parachutists. Five Soviet women were selected on 16 February 1962 and reported for training a month later. However the flight of a woman in space had little support from Chief Designer Korolev or Kamanin's military commanders.
In May 1962 a Soviet delegation, including cosmonaut Gherman Titov and Kamanin, visited Washington. On May 3 Kamanin and Titov were invited to a barbecue at the home of astronaut John Glenn. Glenn, already politically-connected, was an enthusiastic supporter of the 'Mercury 13' - female pilots who had passed the astronaut physical and were lobbying to be trained as Mercury astronauts. Kamanin understood from Glenn that the first American woman would make a three-orbit Mercury flight by the end of 1962. Armed with the threat that 'the Americans will beat us', Kamanin was able to obtain a decision to go ahead with the first flight of a Soviet woman within weeks of his return.
Meanwhile the five female cosmonaut were going through the complete course of cosmonaut training, including weightless flights, parachute jumps, isolation tests, centrifuge tests, and academic studies of rocket theory and spacecraft engineering. The women undertook 120 parachute jumps and received pilot training in MiG-15UTI jet trainers.
Even though NASA's female astronaut flight never materialised, Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963. Following her flight the women were enrolled in the arduous test pilot course at the Zhukovskiy Academy (except Ponomareva, who was a graduate engineer from the Moscow Aviation Institute). There were plans for all-female Vostok or Soyuz flights, but these never materialised. The female training group was disbanded in October 1969. The Soviet Union used only male cosmonauts until the 1980's, when women were again recruited, in order to again have a Soviet woman in space before the Americans finally began flying female astronauts on the space shuttle.
The only cosmonauts staying at TsPK are Komarov, Shonin, Volynov, and the five female cosmonauts. Kamanin believes the Soviet Union had every possibility of making several multi-day spaceflights in 1962, up to 8-10 days, but that this is no longer possible due to delays caused by repeated booster failures and poor leadership.
Kamanin learns that Ponomaryova and Kuznetsova spent all night in TItov's apartment at TsPK. 'Dumb girls' he intones. Kamanin travels in a Lvov bus from Area 10 to Area 2, a distance of 40 km. Driving a Volga automobile, the stretch can now be done in only thirty minutes on the newly paved road. Korolev and his engineers are hard at work. Spacecraft number 5 is already in final tests, with Spacecraft 6 one to two days behind it in the processing flow. The launches will be observed by all of the female cosmonauts and 4 to 8 of the new engineer-cosmonauts.
Attempt to launch a probe towards Mars. The launch went well, but the fourth stage motor burnt for only 45s of the planned 240s. The stage remained in Earth orbit. However Kamanin notes that it was good that the launch of the basic vehicle was a success - it gave the visiting female cosmonauts confidence in the rocket they will have to ride.
The big question regards Gagarin. Shall the 'Columbus of the Cosmos' be allowed to risk his life on another spaceflight? Most of the Soviet leadership are against it, but Gagarin himself wants to train and fly again. Later in the day the cosmonauts have an idiotic argument with IAKM on high-G centrifuge runs for female cosmonauts. This is the first cosmonaut revolt against the policies and practices of IAKM.
Kamanin would like to get going with the training of 40 additional cosmonauts from many disciplines in order to 'storm space'. Korolev is opposed. Kamanin is also trying to get new flights scheduled for his female cosmonauts. This is never mentioned in the planning of future flights. Korolev is opposed to sending any further women into space. Kamanin would like to see a two-woman Voskhod flight, or a woman making a spacewalk. Aside from Tereshkova, Ponomaryova and Solovyova are as qualified and talented as any of the male cosmonauts for such flights. Yerkina and Kuznetsova, although they have completed the course, are ruled out by weaknesses in technical areas or character, in Kamanin's opinion.
Tyulin advises Kamanin, that due to the time needed to qualify the environmental control system, Voskhod 3 will fly no earlier than the beginning of March. He still expresses interest in the female Voskhod flight - now a long-duration flight without the spacewalk. Kamanin says that Ponomaryova and Solovyova are fully qualified for such a flight, but that he has no female backup crew, since Yerkina and Kuznetsova have not been trained for that.
Korolev dies at age 59 during what was expected to be routine colon surgery in Moscow. The day began for Kamanin with firm plans finally in place for the next three Voskhod and first three Soyuz flights. Volynov and Shonin will be the crew for the first Voskhod flight, with Beregovoi and Shatalov as their back-ups. That will be followed by a female flight of 15-20 days, with the crew begin Ponomaryova and Solovyova, with their back-ups Sergeychik (nee Yerkina) and Pitskhelaura (nee Kuznetsova). Tereshkova will command the female training group. Training is to be completed by March 15. After this Kamanin goes to his dacha, only to be called by General Kuznetsov around 19:00, informing him that Korolev has died during surgery.
Kamanin does not minimise Korolev's key role in creating the Soviet space program, but believes the collectives can continue the program without him. In truth, Kamanin feels Korolev has made many errors of judgment in the last three years that have hurt the program. Mishin, Korolev's first deputy, will take over management of Korolev's projects. Kamanin feels that Mishin is a clever and cultured engineer, but he is no Korolev. Over the next three days the cosmonauts console Korolev's widow.
Korolev's surgery was done personally by Petrovskiy, the Minister of Health. Korolev was told the surgery would take only a few minutes, but after five hours on the operating table, his body could no longer endure the insult, and he passed away.
Nikolayev, Leonov, Popovich, Bykovsky, Khrunov, Gorbatko, Zaikin, Volynov, and Shonin all receive their diplomas from the Zhukovskiy Test Pilot Engineering Academy. Khrunov graduates with honours. All of them began training for a lunar landing on January 8. Titov and Gagarin will complete their studies for the diploma in May. Ponomareva and Solovyova willl graduate in the second half of 1968, leaving only Tereshkova, Kuznetsova, and Yerkina. Tereshkova has had her appendix removed in surgery at the Vishevskiy Centre. The surgery went well.
Meeting of Kamanin with S G Donevskiy. The L3 trainer will not be finished until May 1970 - and the current schedule for the first manned L3 launch is December 1970! But in any case Kamanin assesses the latter date as unrealistic -- there is no rocket or spacecraft in being yet. Later in the day Efimov, Moroz, and Kamanin meet with the female cosmonauts - Ponomaryova, Solovyova, Yerkina, and Kuznetsova. They advise them that despite the letter to the Central Committee asking for an all-female Soyuz flight, it has been rejected. Ustinov, Smirnov, and Pashkov are all opposed to the idea, as are MOM, MAP, AN, and VVS. Kamanin believes the whole female cosmonaut concept was a mistake. Flying Tereshkova in the first place started the whole thing, but now there is no follow-up.