Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5
2016 Dec 6
Tuesday, Day 341
First Piloted Docking In Space
In 1969, two Soviet-built spacecraft met in space, docked together, and formed what was termed "the world's first space station" with a crew of four aboard. The remained docked for four and a half hours - three orbits of the Earth. During that time, two cosmonauts 'space walked' from Soyuz 4 to Soyuz 5, becoming the first spacefarers to return to Earth in a different spacecraft from the one in which they went into space. It was not until 1978 that this was repeated - when the Soyuz 27 crew returned to Earth from Salyut 6 aboard Soyuz 26.
The Soyuz 4/Soyuz 5 docking manoeuvre had been practised twice before - in 1967 and 1968. On each occasion, a pair of Soyuz craft had docked together under fully automatic control. In October 1967, it was the turn of Cosmos 186 and Cosmos 188, and the spring of 1968 saw Cosmos 212 and Cosmos 213 repeat the exercise. Later the same year, Soyuz 2 and Soyuz 3 approached each other but did not complete a docking.
These missions followed the April 1967 death of Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov who orbited the Earth in an ill-prepared Soyuz. Soviet technologists needed to continue Soyuz development, but at the same time, it had not been rated for crew operations in the wake of Soyuz 1 - hence the Cosmos flights.
Late in 1968 - Georgi Beregovoi had piloted Soyuz 3 to a rendezvous with Soyuz 2 (which had no crew) in a final check-out of Soyuz prior to resuming a full programme of missions. An intended docking proved not to be possible when Beregovoi approached Soyuz 2 in an incorrect orientation.
Much of the text in the following sections is as published by the Novosti press agency at the time of the mission and was translated from by Novosti from the original Russian version.
Soyuz 4 Mission Statistics
Soyuz 5 Mission Statistics
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