Day Wednesday June

Dobrovolskiy and Volkov performed a test of the various methods for controlling the station. When doing so manually they used the wide-angle optical periscope. In addition, the accuracy of the ion automatic control system was tested. They also checked the intensity of the flashes while the attitude control system's engines were firing. Later, they studied the cloud formations in the upper atmosphere using a radio-mass-spectrometer.1 During the brief time when all three men were awake, Patsayev performed routine medical tests. In terms of heart rate, Dobrovolskiy had 78 beats per minute and Patsayev 77, but Volkov had just 58; the norm being 60-80. And whereas Dobrovolskiy had an arterial blood pressure of 135/75 and Patsayev 135/85, Volkov was lower at 118/55.

From Dobrovolskiy's notebook:

16 June: At the beginning, we did not drink much water. Nor did we eat the assigned amounts. But, like at home, we ate when we felt hungry. However, the days are passing and we are slowly adopting the planned regime. "Stupid weightlessness! Another pencil has gone!'' yells Vadim.

1 In Russian: radiochastotniy masspektrometer (paflHO-^acTOTHbiH Macc-cneKTpoMeTap).

Weightlessness is an interesting state. I am writing with Viktor's pencil - I lost mine a long time ago; almost all our pencils have gone.

It appeared that apart from problems with weightlessness and the lost pencils, the mission was progressing normally. But suddenly the situation changed. Just before the start of another communication session, Volkov noticed a smell of smoke from somewhere at rear of the station. As soon as communication was established, he reported: "Aboard the station is 'the curtain'!'' The anxiety in his voice was evident. To confuse the Westerners eavesdropping on the station's transmissions, a number of code words had been defined, and 'the curtain' meant something related to fire and smoke. Unfortunately, having forgotten what this code meant, the controllers asked Volkov for an explanation. He furiously shouted in plain language: ''There is a fire onboard! We are now entering into the ship!'' He meant that they were retreating to the Soyuz ferry. He added that there was also a strong smell of burning electrical insulation. In their haste, they neglected to get the instructions for an evacuation, so he requested assistance: "Read us the instructions for an emergency undocking from the station!''

When the TsUP sought information about the source of the smoke, they were told that it was coming from a panel on the aft wall which separated the habitable part of the station from the propulsion section. The controllers could tell from the agitated voices that the crew were alarmed. While it was logical to evacuate the station, they should not do this while there was any prospect of extinguishing the fire. The first thought that came to mind was that one of the scientific instruments had caught fire. At that time, scientific organisations had yet to develop highly reliable equipment for use in space, and some faults were likely. In the main control room at the TsUP, Yeliseyev and Nikolayev acted to gain control of the situation by telling the crew to switch off all the scientific equipment, try to find the source of the smoke, and then retreat to the Soyuz. But the communication session expired before the cosmonauts could report.

Immediately after the communication session the leaders of the various groups at the TsUP met in the main control room to plan what to tell the crew to do during the next session. Their dilemma was that they did not know the situation on the station. Were the cosmonauts in the ship? Had they sealed the hatch to the station? Might they even have undocked! Since this was obviously no time to engage in a lengthy discussion, everyone was brief and businesslike: ''What should we do?'' ''It is necessary to prepare several options.'' ''Explain.''

"Let's begin with the worst case: that they have undocked the spacecraft from the station.''

''We'll need several orbits to determine the status of the station. If they remained nearby, will they have enough fuel and life support to dock again?'' ''We will have to calculate that.'' ''Ask your specialists.'' ''Okay.''

Life on board Salyut. In the two upper photos Dobrovolskiy and Volkov are in the working compartment, wearing their 'penguin' suits. Dobrovolskiy relaxes (middle left) after the fire on board the station. Dobrovolskiy (right) and Volkov discuss the flight programme (middle right). At times they were in conflict over how best to proceed. Patsayev can be seen working the Orion telescope (bottom left), and with Volkov taking blood samples (bottom right - note also the shoulder strapping of Volkov's 'penguin' suit).

"It is important to know whether they closed the station's hatch before undocking, because if they didn't then we've lost it!''

"That is clear. If they have undocked, then there is no urgency about the ship. We must focus on checking the station: first, the composition of the atmosphere and the power supply system.''

"We should switch on the internal camera and assess the situation for ourselves.''

"Agreed. Analysis Group, see to this.''

"What if the cosmonauts are still on board the station?"

"We must question them. But first we must calm them down. They will probably have switched off the faulty instrument, but what if this had no effect?'' "Then the situation will be urgent.''

"Let us prepare two additional plans: one for an urgent evacuation of the station, and the other a normal evacuation that returns the systems to the automated regime. Planning Group, this is for you.'' "Good."

"If the faulty apparatus is switched off, the first step is to identify it, as otherwise we won't be able to reactivate the other instruments. Today's programme of work is already lost. Let us form a working group to find the problem. Representatives of Planning, Analysis and Experiments will participate, with the latter in charge.'' "Agreed."

"We will have to remove the smoke from the station.'' "The Analysis Group should prepare proposals.''

"A longer period of communication will be required. We urgently need to connect all the command-measuring sites and arrange additional [telemetry] communication channels from the Ministry of Telecommunications.''

"Okay, good. Now get to work. We will reconvene five minutes before the start of the next session and coordinate our efforts.''

After the specialists had dispersed for their assignments, Minister Afanasyev rang from Moscow to ask what was happening on Salyut; as did Kerimov and members of the Central Committee. Yeliseyev explained only that a scientific instrument had caught fire, the cosmonauts had switched off all of the instruments, and specialists at the TsUP were studying a number of options to overcome the problem.

Yeliseyev also called Mishin, who immediately convened Bushuyev, Semyonov, Tregub, Feoktistov and Chertok. As Mishin told the TsKBEM team: "Yeliseyev has just reported that there is a fire on the DOS. The crew is preparing for an emergency landing. We must alert Kamanin to prepare the recovery team. Tregub must initiate work with the Ballistics Group to determine the best orbit on which to undock to ensure that the landing will be on our territory.'' It was decided that Tregub should go to assist Yeliseyev - although because a flight to Crimea would take five hours it was entirely possible that by the time he arrived the cosmonauts would themselves be back on Earth. The others would remain in Moscow and monitor the situation via internal channels. If it proved possible to continue the programme as planned, then in five days Chertok and Raushenbakh would join Tregub at the TsUP for the final phase of the mission.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment