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Soyuz 35 & Soyuz 37



Soviet Manned Space Programs: 1957-80



In 1980, the Soviets extended the duration of manned flight to 185 days, 10 days more than the previous record. Since records are officially established only when they surpass the previous record by 10 percent, this was not a new endurance record. In the course of the 185-day mission, the main crew was visited by three others and there were 2 ship exchanges. Four Progress ships resupplied the station: The first was docked to the station when the crew arrived, and the last remained docked to it when the crew left, and transferred fuel into the station while it was unoccupied.

Soyuz 35 (Dneiper) was launched at 1338 GMT on April 9, 1980 carrying the crew of Lt. Col. Leonid Popov and Valeriy Ryumin who had returned from the 175-day Soyuz 32/34 mission only 6 months earlier. Ryumin had not been scheduled for this flight, but replaced Valentin Lebedev who had injured his knee. The decision to send Ryumin back into space so soon was premised on his knowledge of the Salyut space station. He had been the person to brief Popov and Lebedev on what repair work needed to be performed on the space station, which led mission planners to conclude that he "unarguably knows the station better than anyone else." (169)

The first task for the crew was unloading Progress 8 which had docked with Salyut 6 on March 29 while it was unoccupied. In addition, the crew's first 2 weeks were spent making prophylatic repairs and readying the station for a long period of occupancy. The crew synchronized the onboard clocks with those of the flight control center, installed new storage batteries, replaced the two blocks of the attitude control system of solar batteries and a conditioning block in the water regeneration system. Ryumin reportedly had an easier time adapting to weightlessness than he had on either of his two previous missions, and Popov was adapting more quickly than expected. Physicians commented that they had designed special cuffs for the crew to wear to distribute the blood in a manner similar to how it would be distributed on Earth.

Experiments were begun with the materials processing units, and with plants. The crew had brought a special, miniature greenhouse called "Malakhit" with them for growing orchids. Tass reported that the flowers would both provide needed scientific data, and provide "additional comfort and good spirits" for the crew. (170) Other plant experiments were continued using Oazis and Vazon.

On April 23, Salyut 6 completed 14,770 revolutions of Earth. The next day, the Progress 8 engines were used to raise the complex's orbit to 368x340 km, and the day after that, Progress 8 undocked. Two days later, on April 27, Progress 9 was launched and it docked with the space station on April 29. This cargo ship brought a new motor for the Biogravistat experiment which the crew subsequently installed, along with fuel and water. This time, 180 kg of water was pumped directly into the Salyut holding tanks using a system called Rodnik, instead of having the crew carry the water in 5 kg drums to the storage compartments. The Lotus device for molding parts from polyurethane was also delivered, as were new atmospheric regenerators which were smaller than previous models and which reduced the need for carbon dioxide absorbers (how was not specified). The Soviets explained that it was difficult to maintain the necessary oxygen-carbon dioxide balance in the space station, not only because the air has to be regenerated, but because they have to get rid of excess carbon dioxide. They said the definitive solution would be to create a biological closed cycle on board, and that experiments to this end had already been conducted (particularly with chlorella), but that "as few anomalies do persist." (171)

Progress 9 was used to boost the station's orbit on May 16 to an altitude of 369 X 349 km, and it undocked 4 days later. On May 22, a further orbital correction was made using the Soyuz 35 engines.

No sooner had Progress 9 left than the first visiting crew arrived. On May 26, Soyuz 36, carrying Valeriy Kubasov, and Bertalan Farkas, the first Hungarian to travel in space, docked with Salyut 6/Soyuz 35. A total of 21 experiments were conducted by the joint crews, including three connected with studying the production of interferon in space, photography using the MKF-6M camera, and materials processing experiments. Many of these had been jointly designed by Soviet and Hungarian scientists. (See p. 585 for details).

The Soviet/Hungarian crew returned to Earth in the Soyuz 35 spacecraft on June 3, leaving the fresh Soyuz 36 at the aft end of the station. The Soyuz 35 ship had been in space for 55 days. On June 4 the main crew moved the Soyuz 36 to the forward docking port as had now become customary, leaving the aft end available for future dockings.

The next visit occurred only 2 days later when the Soyuz T-2 crew of Yuriy Malyshev and Vladimir Aksenov docked. This was primarily a systems test of the new Soyuz T spacecraft in its first manned flight, and the crew returned to Earth after less than 4 days in space, undocking from Salyut 6 on June 9.

Following the departure of the Soyuz T-2 crew, Popov and Ryumin finally had time to settle down to scientific experiments. On June 20, Tass reported that they were about to complete a 4-day cycle of comprehensive studies of the Earth, including photographs of vast regions of the middle and southern latitudes of the Soviet Union and Hungary. In addition, there were reports on continued plant growth experiments and materials processing.

On June 24, Salyut celebrated its 1,000th day in orbit. Another cargo ship, Progress 10, docked with the station on July 1 bringing the usual stores of consumables, plus a color TV to replace the black and white unit, remaining until July 18. While the crew unloaded Progress, they also continued other experiments, and completed experiments with the Isparitel equipment for spraying coatings on various materials. Tass announced that following the July 7th experiment, the Isparitel equipment would be dismantled from its airlock location and Splav would be placed there instead.

A manned launch was expected around this time because the Moscow Olympics were scheduled for July 18-August 3 and Western experts expected that the Soviets would want an international crew on board to speak to the spectators. When the Olympics

opened, only Popov and Ryumin were on board, though, and they did make an address.

On July 23, Soyuz 37 was launched carrying the first Vietnamese cosmonaut, Pham Tuan, into space along with Col. Viktor Gorbatko. They docked with Salyut on July 24 and proceeded to conduct a wide variety of Earth resources, materials processing, and biomedical experiments. Included were experiments for growing a special fern, Azolla, which is native to Vietnam, the Halong materials processing experiment named after a Vietnamese bay, and atmospheric observations to learn more about typhoons and hurricanes, an area of special interest to the Vietnamese. Western media reported that the Soviets had announced that Earth photography and observations would focus on areas "devasted by U.S. defoliants" during the Vietnam War. (172)

The Soyuz 37 crew returned to Earth in the Soyuz 36 spacecraft on July 31, leaving their fresh Soyuz 37 docked at the aft end of Salyut The Soyuz 36 ship had been in space for 66 days. Soyuz 37 was moved to the forward end of Salyut on August 1, the 115th day aboard for the Soyuz 35/37 crew.

The main crew continued conducting the now familiar range of experiments onboard Salyut, and practiced methods of orienting the ship on both the dark and light sides of the planet. On August 12, the crew completed 18 weeks in space, and 4 days later, Ryumm celebrated his second "space birthday" as he turned 41. Popov celebrated his 35th birthday 2 weeks later on August 31.

On September 5, the complex's orbit was corrected using the Soyuz 37 engines, placing the station in a 355x343 km orbit More repair and preventive maintenance work was conducted during this period, while a high level of experimental activity continued. Tass reported that the crew would study the dynamics of changing the gas composition in the space station, and check the serviceability of the station's automatic orientation and stabilization system." (173) The latter statement appeared to suggest that the crew continued to have problems with the navigation system.

The crew was left to perform these tasks in relative peace and quiet during August and early September. No Progress craft were launched because the three previous cargo ships had replenished the station more than adequately. In mid-September, 6 weeks after Progress 10 undocked, the Soviets announced that Salyut still had 2.5 tons of cargo aboard, more than when the Soyuz 35 crew was launched. (174)

Ventilation fans were replaced on September 12, and the Soviets later admitted that these fans were creating a problem because they had to be replaced so frequently because they become noisy after a while. (175) On September 16, another trajectory correction was made and the Soviets announced that they would test a reserve engine that has not been in use for 2 years."(176) There was no apparent problem with the engines already in use, so this was probably just a test to see how the engine would respond after such a long time without use. The Soviets did not report on how well it functioned.

This orbital refinement left Salyut in a 91.4 minute orbit in preparation for another visiting crew. On September 19, Soyuz 38 was launched carrying the first Cuban cosmonaut, Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez, and Col. Yuriy Romanenko, who returned to the space station 2 years after his last visit. He commented that since he was last there, a lot of the scientific equipment had been replenished and now totaled 2 tons, but otherwise the station had not changed. As usual, a large number of experiments were performed, including several jointly developed by Cuban and Soviet scientists. One was the "Support" experiment which required Tamayo Mendez to wear a special shoe to determine whether arch support could affect adaptation to weightlessness.

Two materials processing experiments involved sugar, the mainstay of Cuba's economy, which also marked the first time monocrystals of an organic substance were grown. In addition, the Cubans and Soviets developed a device for recording images of what takes place inside the furnace during these experiments. The crew also obtained electroencephalograms using the "Cortex" device. One Cuban experiment for holography was not ready in time for this launch, so was brought to the space station with the Soyuz T-3 crew later in the year.

Soyuz 38 returned to Earth on September 26. The fact that they did not switch ships with Soyuz 35/37 signalled that the main crew's mission was coming to a close. A final Progress cargo craft was sent to Salyut on September 28 and it docked on September 30. The space station had passed its third year in orbit on September 29, and had at that point made 17,000 revolutions of Earth and traveled 700 million kilometers. At 1414 GMT on October 1, the crew surpassed the old endurance record of the Soyuz 32/34 crew.

On October 6, the crew finished unloading the supplies delivered by Progress 11, and an orbit correction was made on October 8 using the Progress engines. No refuelling was done at that time. Progress 11 remained attached to Salyut after the crew left on October 11, and during November, completed the first refuelling of a space station while it was unoccupied.

On October 11, the crew undocked from Salyut at about 0630 GMT.177 They later reported that they had conducted their last experiment—taking photographs of Earth—only 20 minutes before entering Soyuz.

The crew landed at 0950 GMT, 180 km southeast of Dzhezkazgan after 185 days (4,436 hours, 12 minutes) in space. The Soyuz 37 spacecraft had been in space for 80 days. The medical examination conducted at the landing site showed that the crew had "withstood well the long stay in weightless conditions." (178) Soviet physicians concluded that "no irreversible processes occur in the human organism in weightless conditions," and that the crew's good health was "indicative of the sufficient effectiveness of the methods and preventive means which they had used in weightless conditions. (179)

After the flight, Ryumin revealed that on this flight, they had been given every fourth day off from performing exercises, which apparently did not harm them in terms of readaptation to Earth's gravity, and provided a significant psychological boost. (180)

Less than 24 hours after landing, the crew went for a 30-minute walk (about 1,500 paces) and their pulse rate quickened by 15 to 20 beats. Two days after landing, the two men participated in a press conference that had been scheduled by the physicians for 20 minutes, but lasted over an hour. The press reported that the crew was eager to talk and were quick to respond to jokes. Both agreed that 185 days was not the limit for man's endurance in space.(181) Ryumin himself has now accumulated almost a year (362 days) in space on his three spaceflights.

For the first time, both crew members gained weight (Ryumm about 10 pounds and Popov about 7 pounds), and grew (temporarily) about 3 cm. By October 15, both were playing tennis.

During the mission, Popov and Ryumin took over 3,500 photographs of Earth and

40,000 spectra of the atmosphere and its underlying surface, and obtained 100 specimens from 70 materials processing experiments. They reported that about 400 organizations in the Soviet Union were interested in the results of these experiments. Approximately 25 percent of their time was spent in repair and preventive maintenance tasks, and it was reported that the most commonly replaced items were (not surprisingly) those most frequently used, such as cables for the portable television camera, headsets, and ventilating fans. Neville Kidger also reported in Space flight that during one of their operations, the crew spilled 2.5 liters of water and cleaned it up by getting on either side of the huge globule and drinking it. (182)

Following the completion of the Soyuz 38 mission, Cosmonaut Yeliseyev was asked whether Salyut 6 would continue in operation after the Soyuz 35/37 crew returned. He replied that they would not know until after they came back and reported on the station s health, but it appeared that the answer would be in the affirmative. Only 2 months later, the next crew, Soyuz T-3, was launched to the station (its main task was making further repairs to the station).



169. Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 20, 1980, p. 5E, quoting from Izvestiya.

170. Tass, 1257 GMT, 12 Apr. 80.

171. Moscow Domestic Service, 0000 GMT, 23 May 80.

172. Aviation Week and Space Technology, Aug. 4, 1980, p. 23.

173. Tass, 1048 GMT, 9 Sept. 80.

174. Kidger, Neville. Spaceflight, Mar. 1981, p. 76.

175. Moscow Domestic Service, 0755 GMT, 4 Oct. 80.

176. Tass, 1310 GMT, 16 Sept. 80.

177. The Soviets did not announce a docking time. This information is taken from Neville Kidger's account of the mission in Spaceflight, Aug.-Sept. 1981, p. 217.

178. Tass, 1136 GMT, 11 Oct. 80.

179. Tass, 1315 GMT, 11 Oct. 80.

180. Tass 1142 GMT, 13 Oct. 80.

181. Tass, 1142 GMT, 13 Oct. 80.

182. Kidger, Neville. Spaceflight, Jan. 1982.