Dobrovolskiy Was Still Warm

When the State Commission was informed of the terrible news, Afanasyev, Mishin, Kerimov and others refused to believe it, and asked for confirmation. About an hour later, General Uglyanskiy reported from the landing site that within a few minutes of the module landing, members of the recovery team, led by General Goreglyad, had opened the hatch and found the cosmonauts inert and without any signs of life.

Interestingly, Chertok has a different account of events in the TsUP immediately after the landing. In the absence of reports from the landing site, General Kerimov had thought that Marshal Kutakhov, the Commander in Chief of the Air Force, and as such in overall command of the recovery team, wished to have the privilege of informing the Kremlin of the successful conclusion of the historic mission. In fact, this report should have been made by Kerimov, who, as the Chairman of the State Commission, was responsible for reporting to Moscow; specifically to Ustinov and Smirnov. After 30 minutes without a communication from the landing site Kerimov decided that he really should call Ustinov to complain about the breach of protocol. But then he learned the truth. Pale, Kerimov gave the tragic news:

Two minutes after the landing, members of the recovery team ran from the helicopters to the descent module, which was laying on its side. Outwardly, there was no damage whatsoever. They knocked on the side, but there was no response from within. On opening the hatch, they found all three men in their couches, motionless, with dark-blue patches on their faces and trails of blood from their noses and ears. They removed them from the descent module. Dobrovolskiy was still warm. The doctors gave artificial respiration. Based on their reports, the cause of death was suffocation. There were no strange smells in the cabin. The procedure for evacuating the bodies to Moscow for analysis has been accepted. Specialists from Podlipok and the TsPK have set off for the landing site.

The stunned silence in the crowded control room was broken when someone said that the spacecraft must have suffered a decompression that had exposed the crew to the vacuum of space.

When the recovery team had run from their helicopters to the descent module, it was believed that the silence from the crew was simply the result of a radio failure. The team included Air Force doctors to assist the cosmonauts - who must surely be debilitated by their return to gravity after three and a half weeks in weightlessness. When the crew failed to respond to loud banging on the side of the module, they urgently opened the hatch and were shocked to find the men inert, as if asleep or unconscious. But the fact that their bodies were limp and there were trails of blood

"Dobrovolskiy was still warm" 277

indicated that they were injured; even though the cause was not apparent. Normally, the recovery team would simply assist the cosmonauts to emerge from the 60-cm-diameter hatch. It would be more difficult to extract their inert bodies. The task was complicated by the fact that the module had come to rest with the couches stacked one above the other. One man reached into the cramped cabin, released the belt on Dobrovolskiy's couch and drew him out. Patsayev's couch was higher up. Owing to the manner in which the hatch swung into the cabin, it was more difficult to reach Volkov. As each body was retrieved, the doctors applied manual cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The activity was recorded by a film camera brought to document the joyous return. Furthest away was Dobrovolskiy. His body was still warm and limp. His bearded face was lifeless, his mouth was open and there was a dark patch on his right cheek. His rescuers valiantly tried to revive his heart using chest compression and lung ventilation. To the right, military medics tried to revive Volkov, with one positioned on the body to exercise the chest while the other knelt to give ventilation. Volkov's right sleeve had been rolled up in order to attempt a transfusion. Nearest the cameraman was Patsayev, with his body oriented in the opposite direction to the others, and with a civilian medic to either side of him, attempting resuscitation by artificial respiration.

It would later be determined that when the recovery team pulled the cosmonauts from the module they had been dead for in excess of 30 minutes. Furthermore, they had spent 11.5 minutes exposed to vacuum. Humans and experimental animals had sometimes suffered rapid decompression in terrestrial laboratories or on scientific balloons at high altitude, but the Soyuz 11 crew were the first humans to suffer the vacuum of space at an altitude in excess of 100 km. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is only likely to be effective if given within six minutes of the cessation of the heart, since after this the brain is permanently damaged. The rescuers had stood no chance of reviving the cosmonauts.

There is only one film record of the rescue effort. It shows two medics tending to each body. In addition to manual chest compression and lung ventilation, they had heart-lung and defibrillation (electroshock) apparatus. The effort was observed by a number of military officers, some standing close by and the others waiting beside the helicopters.

As there are no official reports available from the people directly involved in the effort to resuscitate the crew, the details remain unknown. Colonel Borisenko only briefly reported: "We ran to the landing point. The recovery team opened the hatch and pulled out Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev, who had no indications of life. The doctors did everything possible, but it was too late. Based on the preliminary examination by Dr. Anatoliy Alexandrovich Lebedyev at the landing site, the crew perished from the rapid decompression of the cabin of the ship."

One of the doctors, and one of very few witnesses to the drama at the landing site, was Levan Stezhadze: "For more than an hour we tried to resuscitate them with the heart-lung machine. The heart reanimation lasted over an hour. We tried using the defibrillation equipment. It was good apparatus. ... However, there were no signs to show that revival was possible. For example, when I inserted a needle into the heart of one cosmonaut, instead of blood there was only air."

Dobrovolskiy Volkov And Patsayev Body

Drama at the landing site. Top left: Medical workers try to revive Dobrovolskiy. Top right: Medics attend to Patsayev (foreground) and Volkov (in the middle). Bottom left: After conceding that the cosmonauts were dead, their bodies were draped with white blankets. Bottom right: Specialists begin the inspection of the descent module.

Drama at the landing site. Top left: Medical workers try to revive Dobrovolskiy. Top right: Medics attend to Patsayev (foreground) and Volkov (in the middle). Bottom left: After conceding that the cosmonauts were dead, their bodies were draped with white blankets. Bottom right: Specialists begin the inspection of the descent module.

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