The Astronaut/Cosmonaut Memorial Web Site
Charles Bassett II
Clifton Williams, Jr.
Stanley David Griggs
Manley Carter, Jr.
Patricia Hilliard Robertson
Soyuz 1 was launched on April 23, 1967 at 3:35am local time with pilot Vladimir Komarov. This was the first launch at night of a crewed vehicle. Once in orbit it was to have acted as a target for a docking with Soyuz 2 and its crew of three (Valeri Bykovsky - commander, Alexei Yeliseyev - flight engineer, and Yevgeni Khrunov - research engineer). After the docking was complete, the two engineers were to transfer from Soyuz 2 to Soyuz 1 and return home with Komarov. It is believed that the launch of Soyuz 2 never happened because of some sort of trouble Soyuz 1 experienced on orbit. After just over a day in orbit, Soyuz 1 successfully re-entered the atmosphere while perhaps unstable. Despite these problems Komarov might still have landed safely, but a design fault caused the main parachutes to tangle after deployment and his spacecraft impacted with the ground at high speed.
Although there was trouble with the Soyuz spacecraft before launch, Leonid Brezhnev wanted to have a spaceflight to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Communist revolution. The cosmonauts prepared a document listing 200 technical problems with Soyuz and gave it to people high in the communist party. Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space and backup pilot for Soyuz 1, also unsuccessfully tried to convince Brezhnev to cancel the launch. Both Komarov and Gagarin, who were good friends, knew that the pilot of Soyuz 1 most likely would die. A few weeks before launch, Komarov said, "If I don't make this flight, they'll send the backup pilot instead. That's (Yuri), and he'll die instead of me." Gagarin was very upset at the Communist party after Komarov died. He said, "...if I ever find out he (Brezhnev) knew about the situation and still let everything happen, then I know exactly what I'm going to do." It is rumored that eventually Gagarin did catch up with Brezhnev and threw a drink in his face.
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