"One day in January 1962, my squadron commander invited me to his office. He asked me how I was doing, about my health, how I felt. Then, suddenly he stood up and asked me: 'What do you think about space flight?' I asked: 'Me?' He replied: 'Yes, you Georgiy Timofeyevich!' I didn't know what he had in his mind, so I said nothing. Finally: 'Don't you want to fly to space? Think it over.' That was all. How could I reject such a proposal? To fly far above the Earth in the emptiness of space. I remembered Jules Verne, Konstantin Tsiolkovskiy, and about our rockets that had already reached the Moon. I thought also of the fact that they judged my experience and knowledge to be necessary for the next step.''
After consulting his wife, Zhora wrote to his commander, concluding the letter as follows:
I am asking for your permission to enroll in the cosmonaut school. To that, I wish to dedicate all my knowledge and, if necessary, my life.
On 10 January 1963 Zhora was selected as a member of the Air Force's second group of cosmonauts. This comprised 15 military pilots, navigators and engineers of the Strategic Rocket Forces, and included Shatalov, Filipchenko, Artyukhin, Dyomin, Gubaryev and Zholobov. Zhora moved with his wife and daughter to Zvyozdniy to begin training at the TsPK.
As Marina recalls, "My father liked friendship. In our 11-storey building lived the cosmonauts of the first and second groups: Gagarin, Titov, Teryeshkova, Komarov, Beregovoy. They were like members of the single spaceship crew - our building. My father especially respected the heroic past of cosmonaut Beregovoy.''
It was a complex programme of theory classes, physical training, centrifuge work, parachuting and flying MiG-15, MiG-21, Tu-104 and IL-14 aircraft.3 In the altitude chamber he experienced an air pressure reduced to that at a height of 5 km. There was also a chamber that was heated to a temperature exceeding 50°C, and during a single session Zhora shed several kilograms. One of the most difficult parts of the training for the majority of the cosmonauts was an ordeal known as the "chamber of silence''. Zhora first encountered it in February 1964. He entered the chamber with his body covered with biosensors, and spent the next 10 days alone in total silence reading books on astronomy, mathematics and the German language. Interestingly, he also took with him a piece of wood and carved a doll for his daughter. He kept a diary of his activities. The test should have lasted one day longer, but in that case it would have ended on 8 March, which was International Women's Day, and because the majority of the staff supervising the chamber were women they did not wish to miss this holiday.
Shatalov recalls those days: "Zhora stood apart from others by his extraordinary intensity. He prepared for every job deliberately, peacefully, methodically, never in a hurry, always with responsibility. As a great pilot, he learned the space techniques perfectly. He was extremely strict with himself: I remember in January 1963 when we, the new cosmonauts, met in Moscow prior to going to Zvyozdniy and someone suggested a glass of wine to toast the start of this new phase of our lives, and Zhora refused. At that time we did not appreciate his reaction, but later we realised that he was not a pretender. He soon became a favourite of the entire cosmonaut group. We trusted him, and loved him because of his modesty as well as his principles. As he never drank at all, at a party our wives forced him to taste alcohol - it was the first, and the last time I saw him with a glass in his hand.''
Eduard Buynovskiy was another member of that cosmonaut group: "I remember Zhora as extremely sympathetic, always tidy, perfect, correct and well meant, and as a man who liked friendship."
And as Yevgeniy Khrunov of the first group recalls: "Zhora always looked right in the eyes of everyone he spoke to - no matter whether the conversation was of a pleasant or an unpleasant nature. Working in the simulator, he did not spare efforts. Interestingly, he didn't like simple tasks. He had to wait many years for his flight. I
3 In his 13 years as a military pilot Dobrovolskiy accumulated 330 hours of flying time in UT-2, Yak-11, La-9, R-39 and MiG-15 aircraft. At first sight this might appear an unimpressive figure, but it should be remembered that as of 1955 his job combined flying with administrative duties, and later he worked more as a manager than as a pilot. Although a total of 330 hours was one of the lowest accumulated flying times among the pilots of the second group, it was still one-third greater than that of most members of the first group!
Dobrovolskiy spent 8 years training for this historic space mission, including (top left, clockwise) in the altitude chamber, parachute jumping, simulating g-forces on a catapult seat and piloting aircraft.
know just how difficult that was. He was preparing for a long time, and in parallel helping others to train for their own missions. He participated in the organisation of almost every flight by a Soyuz spacecraft, all the time patiently continuing with his own training.''
The five women who entered cosmonaut training at the TsPK in the spring of 1962, about 7 months before the second group arrived, also have fond memories of Zhora. Most of the first group were annoyed to see women in the simulator. At that time, only two Soviet cosmonauts had flown in space and it was felt that there were a great many issues to be resolved before women could be allowed to fly. But at the heart of the matter was the fact that the women represented competition for flights. The women's situation dramatically changed when the second group of men arrived. Whereas the young squadron pilots had made it very clear that they did not approve of the women, the new men, being generally older, more serious, more experienced, of higher rank, and of superior technical knowledge, both respected the women and treated them as colleagues. In the breaks between training sessions during the long hot summer, Zhora would buy them all ice creams.
From the moment he joined the ranks of the cosmonauts in January 1963 until he became the Soyuz 11 commander in June 1971, his life was a succession of exciting events. The general training took precisely two years. It was the toughest thing the 37-year-old had ever done: "I doubt if I could stand it again.'' He was immediately assigned to the second detachment formed to train for military space missions. Then in September 1966 Kamanin moved him to the group of seven military cosmonauts to train for the L1 circumlunar missions. However, even before they could finish the theory of flying to the Moon and the details of the L1 spacecraft they were joined by members of the TsKBEM's first group of cosmonaut-engineers. This joint group, led by Aleksey Leonov, had seven military and four civilian cosmonauts, but Zhora was no longer a member.4 But in June 1967, when Boris Volynov was transferred to the group training for the mission on which two Soyuz spacecraft were to dock in space, Zhora took his place in the L1 group.5
It was during this period that the Dobrovolskiy family gained its second child -daughter Nataliya. At that time, Marina was aged seven. "The first summer after the birth of Nataliya, my father and I went on a vacation to Yalta. Mother remained in town with Natashenka. My father stayed in a nearby hostel, and I lived with grandmother. Early in the morning - no later than 7.00 o'clock - daddy came to fetch me and we went to the shore. He loved to walk in shorts and white jacket, with our sports bag. I had short-cut hair, just like a boy. I liked to walk next to my father along the street. One day we decided to visit the ship Ivan Franco. After buying the tickets we had some time before its departure, so we went to the beach, and on our return we saw the ship drawing away from the pier. I was so disappointed, but it was
4 At this point the L1 group had 11 men; the military cosmonauts were Leonov, Popovich, Byelyayev, Volynov, Klimuk, Voronov and Artyukhin, and the civilians were Makarov, Rukavishnikov, Grechko and Sevastyanov.
5 If all had gone well with Soyuz 1 in April 1967, this docking would have been with Soyuz 2. The loss of Vladimir Komarov created an opening in the crew assignments for the second attempt at this important task, and Volynov was added to the group.
impossible to complain to my father. Once he said to me: 'Let us imagine a sign which when we show it to one another we must smile.' This sign was secret, known only to he and I. Whenever I was distressed, he would smile and show me that sign. After my mood was restored, I would also smile and then we would laugh.''
In November 1967 Zhora and several cosmonauts of the lunar group, including Leonov and Popovich, went to Baykonur to watch the launch of the Proton rocket carrying an unmanned L1 spacecraft. The plan was for the spacecraft to pass around the Moon and return to Earth, but the launch failed as a result of a problem with the engines of the second stage. In early 1968 Kamanin and Mishin chose the first four crews from the 14 cosmonauts in training for the L1 spacecraft.6 Zhora was given command of the fourth crew, with Georgiy Grechko as his flight engineer. But in September 1968 it was decided that only the first three crews would be needed. For several months, he worked with the group in training for the Almaz military space station, and was then made commander of the third (backup) crew for the double Soyuz mission, and between August and December 1968 he trained to fly the active spacecraft. Then in May 1969, after Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 had achieved this goal, he joined the group of six cosmonauts on the project which was to test (in Earth orbit) techniques required to rendezvous and dock in lunar orbit without the assistance of the Earth. This was preparatory work for the N1-L3 lunar landings. Pairs of Soyuz spacecraft were to test the L3 docking system, which was known as 'Contact'. The TsKBEM built four spacecraft equipped for these tests. Four two-man crews trained at the TsPK, and cosmonauts from recent Soyuz missions joined the group to serve as backups. The initial plan was to fly the first joint mission in August-September 1970, and the second in early 1971. At the end of 1969, after the cancellation of the L1 project, most of the lunar cosmonauts were transferred to the Contact group. The Kremlin issued the surprising order that the 100th anniversary of Lenin's birth must be celebrated by a record 17-20-day space mission using one of the four Contact spacecraft! Accordingly, the passive ship from the first pair was reassigned to this long-duration mission - which became Soyuz 9. With only three ships remaining, it would not be possible to undertake two Contact tests. However, the future of the N1-L3 was itself in doubt. Nevertheless, the Contact cosmonauts continued to train alongside the three crews assigned to the new long-duration mission. Zhora trained from time to time with Pyotr Kolodin and the civilian engineers Oleg Makarov and Vitaliy Sevastyanov. In mid-March 1970 Kamanin and Mishin formed two prime and two backup crews for the active and passive ships of the sole remaining Contact test. Zhora was commander of the backup crew for the active ship, with Makarov as his flight engineer.
The failures of the N1 rocket severely diminished the prospects for the L3 project and reduced the need for the Contact mission. But the era of the space station was opening, and in May 1970 Kamanin, knowing that Zhora's training had focused on rendezvous and docking, nominated him to command the fourth DOS crew. From
6 In June 1967 a civilian cosmonaut from the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Yershov (who was an expert in navigation systems) joined the 11-man L1 group, then in January 1968 Voloshin replaced Byelyayev and at the same time Bykovskiy and Kuklin were added to the group; making a total of 14 cosmonauts: 9 military and 5 civilians.
''He was fanatically strict with himself.'' Dobrovolskiy was a serious person during training, but relaxed with friends. With General Beregovoy (right) whom Dobrovolskiy especially respected.
In February 1971 Dobrovolskiy joined Patsayev (left) and Yolkov (right) as the commander of the 'third crew' for DOS-1. This is a rare photograph of them in the descent module of the Soyuz simulator.
September 1970 to mid-February 1971 he trained with Sevastyanov and Voronov. When cosmonaut Shonin, commander of the first DOS crew, was dismissed after an indiscretion, Kamanin replaced Shonin with Shatalov and gave Zhora command of the third crew. Zhora was expecting to fly the first mission to DOS-2 along with Volkov and Patsayev. But then fate intervened with the failure of Soyuz 10 to dock, and Zhora's crew found itself backing up the prime crew and in line to fly to DOS-1 in July 1971. When a member of the prime crew was grounded for medical reasons just days before the scheduled launch, Zhora's crew got the opportunity to become the first crew to board Salyut!
Marina Dobrovolskiy was 11 years old when her father left Zvyozdniy to travel to Baykonur: ''He had never discussed his business things in my presence. However, I remember him saying the word ''soon''; he said this to my mother prior to the flight. When he left on these trips he always had a smile, knowing that he would soon be back home. I was never anxious, but I was always eager for him to return.'' Asked if she had any premonition of the forthcoming tragedy, she replied negatively.
When a journalist asked Zhora about his feelings on the eve of his first flight into space, he said: ''I would say that every space flight is a form of combat, because in a very short time you must give it your maximum, your experience, your knowledge -everything you have accumulated over your entire life. For those people who wish to participate in such combat, space is the right place.'' Q: ''And where is the sense of life?''
''That is a difficult question. Probably it is in the accomplishment of the highest goals. Without motivation, life is mere existence.''
On the night before launch he was asked: ''Are you excited Georgiy?'' ''Yes, I am. All the time I think only of the launch, the flight and the experiments. We have prepared for every anomalous situation, but to be honest I am as excited as if I were about to approach a terrible enemy. Space does not forgive mistakes.''
Was this article helpful?