A member of the recovery team assists Yeliseyev (waving) from the hatch of the Soyuz 4 descent module, as Shatalov stands on the left. Another member of the recovery team stands alongside the capsule with the warm clothes for Yeliseyev. Khrunov is not visible.

of that ship was ill prepared, but I did not expect such a turn of events. The missions were less than two months off. The three crews had already had their examinations. I looked at Mishin interrogatively, and waited for an explanation.''

''I do not want to let that crew fly!'' said Mishin. ''They work thoroughly badly.'' ''But, I have not prepared,'' Yeliseyev pointed out.

''The programme is almost the same as yours from the previous flight, without the transfer. You will succeed.''

When Yeliseyev agreed, Mishin telephoned Kamanin: ''Nikolay Petrovich, I can't permit the Soyuz 8 crew to fly; they work badly. For my part, I nominate Yeliseyev. Select someone from your stronger cosmonauts.''

Kamanin was surprised at Mishin's late intervention, but after a brief objection he agreed that Nikolayev should not fly. The next day Mishin and Kamanin met at the TsPK and, after an unpleasant conversation, agreed to send Shatalov and Yeliseyev. One by one, the three spacecraft were placed into the required orbits, but the Igla rendezvous system on Soyuz 8 malfunctioned and there was no equipment available to control the operation manually. At mission control, ballistic experts improvised a plan to enable Soyuz 8 to perform manoeuvres which would bring it within several hundred

Shatalov and Yeliseyev on the launch tower prior to entering Soyuz 8 (top), and alongside the descent module just after the landing.

metres of its target and then, when the crews could see each other, perhaps they would be able to dock manually. But everyone was aware that the likelihood of success was almost zero. The controllers supplied Soyuz 8 with the manoeuvre data, and where they should look for Soyuz 7. Yeliseyev was to observe through the portholes set at 90-degree intervals around the orbital module, to locate their target visually. Shatalov was to remain at the controls of the descent module and turn his spacecraft as instructed by Yeliseyev until Soyuz 7 entered the field of view of his forward-looking optical periscope. Yeliseyev saw a bright dot travelling against the clouds beneath, but the range was impossible to judge. He recalls: ''We wanted so much to dock, and we tried everything that we could. We had to hold visual contact with Soyuz 7 for the entire period of the approach, while attempting to match our speeds. Shatalov attempted to use the orientation engines on a continuous basis, but these small engines were incapable of cancelling the speed difference, and Soyuz 7 flew by and disappeared.'' There was insufficient fuel to set up another rendezvous attempt. Soyuz 8 landed after 5 days in space, and although the primary objective of docking had not been achieved, the 'group flight' was officially another success in Soviet cosmonautics.

Although everyone was disappointed, there was no time to dwell on this failure, and within 7 months Yeliseyev was back in training in the expectation that his third flight would be a truly historic one.

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