Mishin Volkov And Leonov

Let us return to Mishin and the decision to swap the entire crew. When speaking of this issue at the State Commission he repeatedly used ''we'' rather than ''I''. Who else was involved in taking this decision? It is clear from Chertok's memoirs that Mishin did not consult either Chertok or Shabarov, his most senior deputies present, as they heard the news from Severin, who was from a different design bureau! The discussion between Severin, Chertok and Shabarov occurred late in the afternoon of 3 June, several hours after the medical examination. The events during those hours are still unclear, but based on the memories of some of the people present, as well as upon later events, it is possible to construct a reasonable scenario of activities by the Air Force people under Kamanin and by the TsKBEM staff headed by Mishin, and this indicates that the decision was made very quickly. If Mishin did not consult his two principal available deputies, what about Moscow?

At 9.00 a.m. on 4 June, immediately following the State Commission's meeting, Bushuyev telephoned Chertok from Moscow. As we have seen, Bushuyev had gone to the Politburo with Afanasyev, Keldysh and Smirnov the previous day to report to Brezhnyev on the preparations for Soyuz 11. Bushuyev gave Chertok a summary of the meeting, and told him that Afanasyev would arrive at Baykonur that afternoon for another test of the modified docking system. But Bushuyev, who was Mishin's second deputy and therefore the third man in the TsKBEM structure, had no idea of the crew change. On hearing of it from Chertok he became agitated: ''How dare you decide to do it without consulting us in Moscow! We have reported to the Politburo that Leonov's crew will fly. We confirmed how well they were prepared. And you -because of Kubasov - have replaced them all! Look at the situation in which you have placed Afanasyev, Smirnov and Ustinov! Now they must urgently report again. Afanasyev will be with you in three hours and he won't thank you for it either.'' It is therefore clear that Mishin did not consult Bushuyev, his most senior deputy having a responsibility for manned spacecraft.

In fact, there was only one man in Moscow whom Mishin was obliged to consult: his old patron, Minister Afanasyev, who in turn would have sought the blessing of Ustinov. Although this must have occurred, Bushuyev was clearly unaware of it. It is difficult to prove the case, however, as the leaders of the Soviet space programme made many decisions orally. If there are any documents about this dramatic change, they remain secret in the Kremlin's archive.

Mishin based his objection to Kamanin's suggestion on two elements:

• the document signed by the Air Force stating that once the crews were at the cosmodrome they would not be replaced on an individual basis; and

• his suspicion that if Volkov were to be substituted for Kubasov at this late stage then the crew would not be as harmonious as it would have been with Kubasov, making it inferior to a crew comprising Dobrovolskiy, Volkov and Patsayev, who, even though they were less experienced, had been in training as a crew for some time.

On the other side, Kamanin thought that a crew consisting of Leonov, Volkov and Kolodin, with two veteran cosmonauts, would be more capable of completing such a complex mission successfully.

But perhaps Mishin and Kamanin were each driven by a simpler motivation. After much debate, it had been agreed that the first and third crews would have one TsPK cosmonaut (in command) and two TsKBEM cosmonaut-engineers; and the second and fourth crews would have two military cosmonauts and one civilian. But the first crew had not been able to dock with the station, and Mishin and Kamanin may each have sought to interpret this agreement in his own favour: Mishin wishing to fly his two engineers and Kamanin wishing to have two military cosmonauts. Applying the rule of exchanging the entire crew would favour Mishin. Discarding the rule and replacing Kubasov by Volkov would favour Kamanin. Volkov would fly regardless of how the dispute was resolved. The basic issue was which community would have two of its cosmonauts on the crew - the TsPK or the TsKBEM.

At noon on 3 June, immediately after the medical report which grounded Kubasov, Kamanin and his Air Force people decided to reject the rule and instead substitute Volkov for Kubasov in Leonov's crew. Initially, Mishin accepted the plan, but soon telephoned Kamanin and told him that after a conversation with Moscow (actually Afanasyev and probably Ustinov) they must exchange the crew. Officially, the State Commission was responsible for considering the views of Kamanin and Mishin and formally nominating the crew. But with the exception of Mishin, and at a later stage Kerimov, no members of the Commission had been involved in this decision; Kamanin was excluded of course. Mishin did not mention an official document - he simply said to Kamanin that Moscow supported the crew exchange. In fact, to achieve his goal Mishin had used the document between the Air Force and the TsKBEM which specified that once the crews were at the cosmodrome they would not be replaced on an individual basis. When Soyuz 10 failed to dock, it appeared that Mishin had missed the chance to have two civilian cosmonauts on the first crew to board Salyut; but now, thanks to Kubasov's ailment, if he could get the crew exchanged, he had a second opportunity to send two of his cosmonauts.

However, someone was missing in this chain of events: Volkov - the man who may well have played the most crucial role. The Air Force people certainly did not consult the civilian, and Mishin initially accepted Kamanin's plan without seeking the opinion of Volkov. But as Mishin thought about it more deeply, it is reasonable that he would have talked the matter over with Volkov, and possibly also Patsayev, prior to making his call to Moscow.

After Mishin called Kamanin to say that Moscow had consented to the crew being swapped, Kamanin informed the Air Force staff. Leonov exploded. He could not accept this. As a member of the original cosmonaut group, and the first man ever to spacewalk, he urged the Air Force to demand that he fly with Kolodin and Volkov. He had trained for the mission for almost a year. He knew Salyut thoroughly. As a passionate artist, he had even arranged for the station's cargo to include his painting apparatus. While in space he wanted to paint the Earth, the stars, the Moon, distant nebulas, and his colleagues at work in the station. It was his mission. Naturally, he had the full support of Kolodin, who was eager to make his first flight.

The famous journalist Yaroslav Golovanov, who knew many of the cosmonauts well, recalled the atmosphere at Baykonur as follows: ''It is hard to describe what was happening in the Cosmonaut Hotel. Leonov was so furious that he was simply growling. If he could, he would have strangled Kubasov. Poor Valeriy could not understand what was going on. He was feeling perfectly well and, after all, it wasn't his fault. In the evening Kolodin visited me, completely crushed. With a glass in his hand he said: 'Yaroslav, you know, I will never fly in space.' And he was right. ...

''I will never fly to space,'' complained Kolodin (left) in frustration at the decision to ground Leonov and himself along with Kubasov. On the other hand, Volkov (on the right, with Kolodin) was happy to gain the chance to fly this important mission. (Kolodin's photo - first published in Spaceflight magazine by the BIS)

''I will never fly to space,'' complained Kolodin (left) in frustration at the decision to ground Leonov and himself along with Kubasov. On the other hand, Volkov (on the right, with Kolodin) was happy to gain the chance to fly this important mission. (Kolodin's photo - first published in Spaceflight magazine by the BIS)

Leonov urged the replacement of Kubasov with Volkov. It looks as if he succeeded in convincing the generals, but then Volkov became obstinate, saying: 'If a change is necessary, then change the entire crew.' "

This definitely shows that Volkov was behind the decision; Mishin was merely its executor.

However, in one of his interviews Kubasov said something else: ''They intended to move Volkov from the backup crew to take my place, but Leonov categorically opposed this idea.''

Are we to believe Leonov did not wish Volkov to be on his crew? It was true that of the cosmonaut-engineers Volkov was the most critical of his military colleagues owing to their lesser technical qualifications. In training at the TsPK for his first flight, he sometimes behaved as if he were the leader of the crew with two military cosmonauts. In fact, Kamanin once told Filipchenko, the real Soyuz 7 commander, to restrain Volkov in the Soyuz simulator. Of course, Leonov would have known of this. In normal circumstances, Leonov would not have been keen to have Volkov on his crew. But Leonov knew that the only way that he would fly on Soyuz 11 was if he accepted Volkov as his flight engineer. Volkov, however, had a choice. He had a guaranteed ticket to fly. If he flew under Leonov's command he would be the only civilian on board. If the backup crew flew, then not only would he fly with the men with whom he had trained, but because Dobrovolskiy and Patsayev were rookies he would enjoy the status of a veteran. So for Volkov the choice was simple. And there is another unusual aspect to Kubasov's claim. He was close to Volkov: both were from Moscow; they were the same age; they graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute; they worked together for years at OKB-1; they successfully passed all the cosmonaut examinations and medical tests and were chosen for the TsKBEM's first group of cosmonaut-engineers. As much as he may have sought to protect Volkov, by making his claim Kubasov actually raised an old and never documented story of a complex relationship between Leonov and Volkov: allegedly, when the crews for the DOS missions were first nominated Leonov belittled Volkov, pointing out that although a veteran he was only on the third crew, and hence had no chance of flying to the first space station.

On 4 June the State Commission confirmed what Volkov and Mishin desired: the replacement of the entire crew. When they heard of this from Kamanin, Leonov and Kolodin continued to complain. Having two cosmonauts, both military officers, one a space veteran and the other a rookie, dispute the decision of a State Commission was a remarkable moment for the centralised and totalitarian Soviet system - both unprecedented and incomprehensible. Kamanin, who was always on the side of his cosmonauts, acceded to the pressure imposed by Mishin, who was able to rely upon the rule signed by the Air Force stating that once the crews were at Baykonur there would be no individual cosmonaut substitutions. Having lost the support of the Air Force and his closest colleagues at the TsPK, Kamanin did not wish to pursue the matter further. But Leonov and Kamanin did. Lacking the support of their generals, they went directly to the only man who could have the decision changed: Mishin. In the 2004 book Two Sides of the Moon, which Leonov co-authored, he summarised the conversation with Mishin ahead of the final meeting of the State Commission on the evening of 4 June. Leonov says that Mishin warned him: "Don't forget that you shared a room with Kubasov. Perhaps you drank from the same glass. We can't take the risk of you becoming ill while in space.'' In hindsight, Leonov acknowledged Mishin was correct. But at the time he could not accept the decision. He and Mishin exchanged some rather unpleasant words. Just before the State Commission convened, Mishin advised Chertok of his difficult conversation with Leonov and Kolodin - during which Kolodin said that he had known all along that he would not fly: "To them, I am the 'white crow' -they're all pilots and I'm a missile man.''

That was true: among the 15 members of the 1963 group of Air Force cosmonauts, Kolodin was one of four who were not pilots. He had served at both the Baykonur and Plesetsk cosmodromes in the Strategic Rocket Forces. As a 'missile man' at the TsPK, he did not think he had much chance of ever being assigned to a prime crew in competition with the Air Force officers, some of whom had test pilot experience. Fellow 'missile man' Eduard Buynovskiy has said that when the cosmonauts of the second group arrived in Zvyozdniy they were immediately separated into pilots and non-pilots. In addition, Kolodin was notable for the curiosity of having lost half of his left thumb in an accident! According to Leonov, Kolodin had a particularly hard time. In 1964-65 Kolodin was Leonov's second backup in preparations for the first spacewalk. He was appointed as a general backup for the 'group flight' of October 1969 along with Shatalov and Yeliseyev, but when the two-man crew of Soyuz 8 was replaced Kolodin was not needed. Now, when he was on the threshold of space, it was decided that he should be stood down! Kolodin reportedly tried to convince Mishin to substitute him for Patsayev on Dobrovolskiy's crew. Of course, Mishin refused, and Kolodin, almost with tears in his eyes, warned ominously, ''History will not forgive you for what you have done.''

It is interesting that in his published diary Kamanin did not write in detail of his conversations with Leonov and Kolodin. He said simply that Leonov's entire crew reacted incorrectly and in an inappropriate manner. According to Kamanin, their behaviour was totally unacceptable and did them no honour. However, they were not the alone in this. As Kamanin put it: ''They are guilty for that, as are many Big Chiefs who added fuel to the flame.''

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