Voskhod 1 - Multiple Seater
2017 Mar 29
Wednesday, Day 88
We Start The First Voskhod Mission
There were many people at the launching site: members of the State Commission responsible for the flight, also the members of the launching team, doctors, consultants, designers, newsmen.
The commander, Vladimir Komarov, reported that the crew was ready for the flight. After more good wishes, we walked over to the lift at the foot of the rocket. The lift took us up to the top.
On a small platform leading to the ship, we stopped for a moment to look down at the waving hands. Our hearts quickened for a moment. It is a natural reaction before parting even if only for a short journey. We were going on an earth-circuiting flight.......
For us the flight had started. In front of the hatchway we took off our jackets and changed the boots for suede slippers. The first to take his place in the cabin was the flight doctor - his seat was farthest from the entrance. Then the scientist, and lastly - the commander. We strapped ourselves in our chairs and set about checking the instruments and equipment.
We felt very much at home in the ship where we had spent so much time while in training In the light that streamed through the porthole the faces of the astronauts were calm.
We were not isolated from the outside world. All the time we could hear Yuri Gagarin's cheerful voice. From the control post be kept us informed of everything taking place on the deserted launching site.
Time seemed to crawl as we waited for the command for, the start. In those last six-ten minutes we were once again reminded or the truism that the hardest thing in life is to wait.
A last the command rang out: "Stand by"!".
It would be a matter or minutes before the take-off. Our eyes met for an instant and we began to prepare for the next stage of the flight.
Commands followed in quick succession. The recording apparatus was switched on, the engines started up. There was not much noise at first. But after the command "Main Engine" the noise and the vibration grew stronger. The final command came at 10:30 sharp.
We were off!
Until we meet again on the Earth, comrades!
To the observer, the start is a magnificent, unforgettable sight, especially at night. In the darkness everything looks weird. The rocket roars off the launching pad bathing everything around in brilliant light. It is like a huge candle hanging in a black sky. The candle soars higher and higher, gradually turning into a bright point of light and then disappearing altogether in the blackness.
To the men in the capsule the take off is not so impressive. They cannot see the roaring flames, the noise is no louder than that of jet plane. The vibrations are weak. And they too soon cease.
The overloads seem less than they were while in training. They increase in waves, reaching the maximum at the end or each stage.
After the spacecraft emerged from the dense layers of the atmosphere, the ballistic cap opened up and sailed away. In The portholes we could see the vast expanses of our planet shrouded in clouds. We were flying over our country. Siberia with its mighty rivers and mountains held us spellbound. Curiously enough it looked just as it does on a map, even the colours were the same, as though people had seen their Earth even before there were school maps and globes. The outlines of the cities were visible beneath the clouds.
The last stage of the carrier rocket would be firing in a moment, and with it weightlessness would begin. We had been warned to sit quietly at this point, not to make any sudden movements and not allow ourselves to be distracted. However we promptly forgot all this advice as soon as we looked through the portholes.
The impression was so extraordinary, so exciting that we could not contain our delight. We got out of our safety belts. Each one thought the view from his porthole was the most beautiful and kept calling the others to come and look. We finally tore ourselves away and got down to work.
The Voskhod was the first spacecraft large enough to hold a three-man crew, each member specialising in a different field. The information they obtained would help to blaze a trail into the immensity of space.
In all previous flights, the astronaut wore heavy, cumbersome spacesuits and was strapped to the chair. Only occasionally was he allowed to get out of his chair and float around in the cabin for a brief period.
On our journey everything was different. As soon as the ship went into orbit, we unstrapped ourselves. We could float around freely to all the portholes and our view was practically unlimited. We could thus observe many new phenomena that the other astronauts did not see. During the Vostok flights, the astronauts had to spend part of their time sleeping. On the Voskhod, two members of the crew were always on duty while the third rested. Our work in space did not stop for a moment and we were able to obtain considerably more scientific information. Alternation of work and rest ensured maximum efficiency of all the members of the crew. In the Vostok's one-man capsule, the astronaut, in observing various phenomena, could rely only on his own judgement. We immediately exchanged opinions on our observations and could thus reach a more objective assessment. Such was the case, for example, in determining the nature of the luminous particles.
Many people are now asking who should be on board a multiseater spacecraft besides the pilot-commander. What scientists should go as members of future space crews?
They should be the people who design the spaceship and normal conditions of life in the cabin. There should be mechanics, experts in the fields of space equipment, electronics, physics, optics. The crew should certainly include doctors and biologists.
The First Circle
The first minutes of flight in a predetermined orbit... By means of a television system, Feoktistov and Komarov watched the slowly-revolving last stage of the carrier rocket falling away, its warning lights flashing, until it moved out of the camera's view.
The commander relayed to Earth that the satellite was safely in orbit, that the crew felt fine and that they were proceeding to carry out the programme of the flight. From containers he took out the medical equipment and turned it over to Boris Yegorov. The film and photographic equipment was for Feoktistov.
Meanwhile Konstantin Feoktistov checked the apparatus and the atmosphere in the cabin. The doctor spread out his instruments and examined the other members of the crew; in the ship's log he entered the results of his observations: pulse, respiration, reaction to the change-over to weightlessness, the effect of the overloads, general impressions and the way his shipmates looked.
Yegorov had no occasion to perform his immediate duties since no one required medical assistance. But he obtained a fairly clear idea of the doctor's functions on board a spacecraft. The conditions in the capsule were very comfortable and Boris even joked about being able to perform an appendectomy, if necessary.
We had left behind the Soviet Union. The ship was now in the Earth's shadow. Before us there spread out a magnificent view of the horizon and a second brilliant layer of the atmosphere about 60 to 100 kilometres above it.
Our programme was a crowded one with every moment accounted for. We kept referring to the ship's log so that nothing would be overlooked.
The ship emerged from the shadow of the Earth and we watched the sunrise. The commander tested the manual system of orientation. In case the earth controlled automatic apparatus failed, it might be necessary to control the ship manually. But everything was in fine working order. The crew was now confident that at any moment they could switch on the engines and make the descent and landing without commands from the Earth.
We made another entry in the log about the functioning of the apparatus and the atmosphere in the cabin. We were now approaching the territory of the Soviet Union and it was time to establish contact with the ground control station. Komarov switched on the transmitters.
Contacting the Earth was fairly simple. The commander pressed a button and a routine check-up followed: "'Dawn', 'Dawn', I am 'Ruby', can you hear me?".
"'Ruby' I am 'Dawn', reception is good".
"Take this report".
Komarov gave a report on the progress of the flight and the physical condition of the crew. A little later the television installation was switched on, additional lights were turned on in the cabin and a control lamp flickered on the TV camera.
The Planet From Above
In orbit, the ship usually rotated around its centre of gravity. We were in a state of weightless and did not feel this motion. However, it might interfere with our observations. By means of a new system of control and new methods of orientation, Komarov could stop the rotation and orientate the Voskhod over any part of our planet. The Vostok spacecraft could be orientated only on sectors of the orbit lighted by the sun.
During the flight, he orientated the ship several times - by the stars, the Earth, the horizon and the sun. An experienced pilot and engineer, Komarov could judge the merits and shortcomings of the control system. A number of times he controlled the ship manually so that the members of the crew could continue their observations of the cosmos or the Earth.
Against the light-coloured Porolon background of the cabin, the black control lever stood out clearly among the other handles and tumblers. The Voskhod is highly sensitive in operation and responds easily to the commander's will and touch. According to Komarov, spaceships of the Voskhod type can be controlled by any trained pilot. With a record of 20 years' service in aviation during which time he has piloted a wide variety of planes, his opinion can be relied upon.
The portholes on the Voskhod offered an all-round view. A close-range television system made it possible to see what was going on even behind the instrument section where a porthole could not be made.
The system of portholes, the TV installation in the cabin and finally, complete freedom to move about enabled us to observe what no astronaut before us had seen.
During the first circuit as soon as the Voskhod entered the Earth's shadow, we saw a breathtaking sight! Over the horizon at a height of about 100 kilometres stretched a luminous layer in yellow-white colours with stars shining through it. The layer of brightness was clearly visible in the moonlight. The stars in the jet-black sky sparkled like diamonds. We saw this layer of brightness many times.
Towards the end of the third spin when the ship was flying over the Antarctic, we saw another unique phenomenon columns of yellow light hundreds of kilometres tall, rising at right angles to the black horizon, towered above a layer of brightness that shrouded the Earth. It was like a multicoloured layer cake - first the horizon, then the dark sky, then a layer of brightness illuminated by the moon and above this - the yellow columns of light. Like a palisade they fringed the entire visible horizon for about two thousand kilometres. We were so entranced, we did not at once realise the nature of the phenomenon we were observing.
"Why, it's the Aurora Australis" Feoktistov exclaimed after a short pause.
The Aurora Australis viewed from the Earth is not so impressive. In the cosmic stillness, the columns of yellow light stood motionless, like an immobilised celestial fire, and through them the stars glittered coldly. We were gazing at the golden halo of our planet.
Flying over the green fields and yellow deserts of Africa, Boris Yegorov tried to identify the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro: Hemingway had taught him to love this mountain top.
Suddenly he noted some strange reddish flares. We peered out of the portholes. Below, lightning flashed through the thick layer of moonlit clouds. A thunderstorm!
Komarov knew how disastrous a thunderstorm could be for a plane caught in its furious whirlpool. But it held no dangers for us. We were higher. We were higher than any storm any typhoon or hurricane that might blow over land and sea. Hurtling in space at a speed of 30,000 km per hour, the Voskhod could outdistance the fastest winds, and at an altitude of hundreds of kilometres, it was beyond the reach of any flash of lightning.
Sunrise. On the Earth it is a source of joy, heralding the beginning of a new day. We had greeted the dawn in the steppe, on sea, at the top of snow covered mountains. But what we saw in the cosmos surpassed all our expectations.
At first a blue halo which Yuri Gagarin saw during his flight appeared over the horizon. We then saw a red field that became brighter and brighter. Suddenly a red line appeared below the red field, it became an oval and then a red disc. Another instant and the blinding rays of the sun struck the portholes. All this took place in a matter of seconds. The sun's brightness in the cosmos is extraordinary.
We were very much interested in the shining particles we saw. We had heard about these mysterious particles whirling around the spaceships from the reports of John Glenn and our astronauts. We of course were anxious to understand this phenomenon. The luminous particles were visible only against a black sky with the sun shining from the side.....
It was our impression - we checked each other on this - that the particles appeared at a distance of one half to a few meters from the ship and then gradually disappeared. Their movement is erratic. Sometimes we saw two particles moving towards each other. The general feeling was that these tiny particles came from our ship, apparently they are simply dust particles that are round everywhere, even in the Cosmos. In the sunlight they are clearly visible.
We observed the starry sky through the portholes to check the possibility of orientation by the stars from within the cabin and the use of a sextant for Astro-navigation. Measuring the height of the stars above the visible horizon with a sextant turned out to be a simple matter. This means that in future flights, especially interplanetary, the astronauts themselves will be able to determine the position of the spacecraft end calculate the trajectory of its movement.
Sleeping On Earth Is More Comfortable
We were so engrossed in our observations that the hour and a half the ship needed to make a complete circuit around the Earth sped by unnoticed. At any rate time seemed to pass more quickly in space than on the Earth. We had the feeling that we were falling behind in our work and not carrying out everything we were supposed to. In order to keep to our work schedule, we even skipped one planned sleep period, taking only a brief nap.
The first to go off duty was Boris Yegorov. He slept soundly and his face in the light of the moon or the sun was in perfect repose. He even snored occasionally. The next to sleep was Konstantin Feoktistov.
The last to go off duty was the commander, Vladimir Komarov. His turn came more than 12 hours after launching time. We fell asleep quickly, in our usual posture. It was amusing to watch a sleeping comrade. His body free of gravitation, assumed the strangest postures especially when his hands started floating upwards.
Just the same, sleeping on the Earth is more comfortable. The authors of science fiction, both old and modern, assert that weightlessness has its special comforts for space crews. According to the authors of science fiction, sleeping in space is a very simple matter. All the astronaut has to do is to float to some corner of the cabin where he will not be in the way of his space mates, rest his head on his hand and go to sleep. It is nice and soft and there is no pressure. The cabin is warm so that he does not need a blanket. As a matter of fact it is far from pleasant.
We tried several times getting out of the chair and floating in the cabin. Certainly not the most pleasant sensation. And sleeping this way is altogether uncomfortable. Instinctively you want to lean against something: with your head against the ceiling or your feet against the chair. The best way to sleep is strapped in the chair.
Objects in space do not keep floating around either; place an object somewhere and it will stay there until it is carried away by a current of air from the fan.
We Make A Landing
On the morning of October 13, when the time was approaching for the descent we applied by radio to the State Commission earnestly requesting that the flight be prolonged for at least another day. We wanted to repeat the whole programme, to check and double-check our observations. But permission was refused, we were informed that since the programme for the trial flight had been carried out in full, there was no need to continue it. There were even some wisecracks: leave something for the others to do.
Orders are orders. Frankly speaking though, we prepared for the descent without any enthusiasm. Reluctantly we packed up the instruments and apparatus and secured the remaining equipment.
On the last lap, we went into our 16th spin. We lay strapped in our armchairs and looked out of the portholes. What would it be like during the descent?
The descent indicator started working. In a minute one of the two braking engines was supposed to fire. It did! With a light metallic clink the instrument section separated from the ship. We waved to it for it had served us well. It kept trailing us, appearing now and again in one of the portholes of the rotating capsule.
The ship was re-entering the atmosphere. Outside the portholes it began to turn pink. The black sky vanished revealing an orange-red haze. Only through the porthole facing the earth was it still possible to see the planet through the clouds. But soon this picture melted away in the brightness of the boundary layer. Everything outside the portholes seemed ablaze.
"Are we ablaze?" Yegorov asked. "No", Feoktistov said, "It's the white-hot boundary layer".
The temperature of the gas around the luminous capsule was somewhere around ten thousand degrees. We could hear the heat-resistant covering "crackling'. Yet inside the cabin the temperature was normal.
We began to feel the effects of overload. It increased gradually reaching about eight g's. This meant that Yegorov who weighs 75 kilograms now weighed more than half a ton. At this stage respiration is difficult and speaking is impossible.
Our training in the centrifuge had prepared us for the overloads. But in the capsule during the descent it seemed to be greater and last longer. That sensation, however, was deceptive. It was simply the effect of our stay in a world without weight and the sudden change over from weightlessness to the overload.
The ship began to vibrate like a truck travelling over a cobblestone road. That meant the Voskhod was passing through the sound barrier in the opposite direction, its speed would soon be subsonic.
On their stopwatches, Yegorov and Feoktistov timed the vibrations from start to finish. The only one to speak was the commander of the ship He dictated his impressions on tape in a calm, unhurried voice.
The vibrations soon ceased the overload had nearly disappeared. On instructions from the Earth, the parachute system went into operation at a predetermined altitude, for a second the overload increased sharply and then we found ourselves back in our "earthly" state. Supported by the parachutes, the spacecraft continued its descent towards the Earth. It descended slowly, without rocking.
Instinctively we prepared for the impact that would come when the ship touched land. Imagine how delighted we were not to feel the slightest bump. The only sound was the rustling of the dry stubble on the recently harvested field.
"Are we on solid ground?" we asked each other. We were. We started congratulating ourselves, but Komarov said there was still work to be done, so we got busy.
Later we tried to find traces of the landing, but without success. Some comrades discovered an indentation six centimetres deep.
Copyright © Robert Christy, all rights reserved
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