Saturday, June 15, 2013

50 Years Ago: Vostok 5 begins Joint MIssion

Cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky of Vostok 5.

On June 14, 1963 the Soviet Union launched Vostok 5 from Baikonur. This mission was a joint mission similar to Vostok 3 and 4, which made a close approach. Cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky in his spacecraft would attempt a close pass of Vostok 6 which would shortly launch.

Mission patch for Vostok 5 and Vostok 6.

As with the other Vostok missions, the cosmonaut was the single occupant of the spacecraft. The Vostok 5 mission was expected to last 8 days. The second spacecraft, Vostok 6 was scheduled for launch on June 16.

Model of a Vostok spacecraft. The spherical module separates from the service module for a parachute ride back into the Soviet Union.

Things did not go as planned for the mission.  Increased levels of solar activity presented a radiation danger for anyone staying up for a long time, and there was a problem with the waste collection machinery. No doubt Valery detected a new odor in space. However, being the professional pilot that he was, Valery maintained his flight duties and was finally recalled to return to Earth after 82 orbits. Although shorter than planned, to this day it remains the longest duration flight of a single occupant spacecraft, setting a record and putting America farther behind in the space race.

Valery Bykovsky.

For his mission, Bykovsky was awarded "Hero of the Soviet Union," Russia's highest honor. He would eventually reach the rank of Major General of the Soviet Air Force. He was later scheduled to fly on the Soyuz 2 mission. Remarkably, after the accident with Soyuz 1, the mission was postponed, and it was discovered that the craft had the same problem as the first one. If he had flown the Soyuz 2 mission before alterations, he would have perished.

Soviet cover with stamps commemorating the Vostok 5/6 missions.

Another stamp cover of the missions,

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