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Soyuz TM-4 Spacecraft Series


By Marcia S. Smith, Formerly with the, Science Policy Research Division of the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service


Mir 1987 Activities


A few days later, on December 9, the Soviets presented a new crew (and their backups) to journalists. 176 The commander of the new crew, Col. Vladimir Georgiyevich Titov, would be trying to board a space station for the third time: his first try, in April 1983, failed when the Soyuz T-8 docking radar did not deploy so docking could not be achieved with Salyut 7; his second attempt was on September 23, 1983—the mission that was aborted when the launch vehicle caught fire seconds before launch (Soyuz T-10A). Titov's crewmates this time would be Musa Khiromonovich Manarov 177 and Anatoliy Semenovich Levchenko. Press announcements stressed that Levchenko was a meritorious test pilot. The launch date and time were announced three days in advance, 178 and two days before launch it was reported that Levchenko would return with Romanenko and Aleksandrov while Titov and Manarov took over operations on Mir. 179 Progress 33's departure from the space station on December 19 (undocking occurred at 11:16 MT) cleared the rear docking port for Soyuz TM-4's arrival. The cargo craft re-entered the same day.

Soyuz TM-4 (call sign Okean) was launched at 14:18 MT on De­cember 21; docking was achieved on December 23 at 15:51 MT. Al­ though the Soviets had transferred operations from one crew to an­other on Salyut 7, this time it was a complete crew rotation; no one already familiar with the operation would be left on board as Sa- vinykh had been in 1985. This placed greater demands on Roman­ enko and Aleksandrov during the one week they shared with the new crew on the space station, both in terms of acquainting Titov and Manarov with the station and its experiments, and in packing their own things to go home. Coupled with experiments that they crew was still expected to perform during this period, the work load was too much. Tired and irritable, Romanenko lambasted ground controllers the day before he returned to Earth, complain­ ing that he and Aleksandrov were "rushing around like squirrels in a wheel" trying to do everything that was demanded of them. He insisted that "superfluous personnel" (presumably scientific specialists worried about their experimental results) be removed from the control center, and suggested that experiments should not have been planned during the period of joint work with the new crew. 180

Romanenko Returns with Aleksandrov, Levchenko and a 326 Day Record

On December 29, after 326 continuous days in space, Romanenko finally came home. Soyuz TM-3 undocked from Mir at 08:55 MT and Romanenko, Aleksandrov, and Levchenko landed at 12:16 MT. Romanenko's new continuous record of 326 days was coupled with a new cumulative record of 431 days. His precise duration on this flight was 326 days 11 hours and 38 minutes; Aleksandrov was in space for 160 days 7 hours and 17 minutes. Levchenko's duration was 7 days 21 hours and 58 minutes.

It was a rough end to the record-breaking mission. At the land­ing site, 80 kilometers from Arkalyk, visibility was 4 kilometers, the temperature was minus 12 degrees C and weatherman warned of the possibility of icing that could prevent search planes and heli­ copters from taking off (in which case cross-country vehicles would have to be used to retrieve the crew). 181 Moscow television showed film of the landing. 182 The picture showed the capsule descending until it was lost in fog, and then showed it lying on its side on the ground. Correspondent Slipchenko explained that strong wind gusts (25-30 meters/second) had blown it over, and that plans to erect a medical tent near the capsule before removing the crew had to be scuttled, so the crew was taken directly to a medical helicop­ ter.

Television shots showed Romanenko and Aleksandrov being car­ ried from the capsule, while Levchenko, supported by a man on either side, got into a helicopter and viewers were told that he was being taken to an airport to "fly to Moscow to continue his work. He will be piloting a plane after his period of weightlessness." 183 The television report then shifted to an airplane carrying Aleksan­ drov and Romanenko, and the correspondent reported that the two had changed clothing, "stood up and sat down at the table and are now eating our earth food with great pleasure." (Laveikin was also aboard the plane.) Romanenko was half lying down in his chair and was later shown deplaning at Baikonur with people supporting him on either side. Their arrival at Baikonur showed another in­ teresting change in the Soviet space program: they were met at the plane by their families. Slipchenko ended his report on this note, saying that "For the first time in very likely the whole history of manned space exploration, a crew at Baikonur is welcomed by their families, wives and children. They will be seeing in the New Year all together." 184

From Soviet press accounts, the two men were in better shape than might have been expected. A Soviet television reporter, look­ ing for Romanenko the day after the landing, found him walking in a park with his wife and a physician. 185 A Western commentary said that his wife had her arm linked with his, but that Roman­ enko appeared to walking very confidently. 186 At a press confer­ ence that day, the cosmonauts attributed their good health to the measures they had followed on orbit. Aleksandrov revealed that he and Romanenko had been able to choose their own exercise regi­ mens to some extent. He stated that Romanenko had "adopted the program he believed he needed" and that he had "scrupulously worked on this program. It was simply astonishing how conscien­tiously and single-mindedly, and with what willpower, he did this, because getting on the running track and running the 4 k we are obliged to run every day remains the most difficult thing for us in flight." For himself, Aleksandrov chose a less intense program. 187 At the same press conference, Romanenko said that his mission was the latest step in sending people to Mars.

Levchenko's Mission: Paving the Way for the Space Shuttle

Mostly missed by Western press accounts of the mission, Lev- chenko's presence on the flight was quite interesting. The day before the launch, Gen. Shatalov explained to Soviet journalists that Levchenko's mission was needed to gain experience related to piloting a reusable space system. 188 As Soyuz TM-4 docked with Mir, the Soviet press announced that: [He] has been sent on this mission to try out in zero gravity his skills for the future piloting of a shuttle spacecraft being developed in the Soviet Union." 189

As noted above, after landing, Levchenko was taken to an air­ field where he flew an airplane (a TU-154). Although Soviet televi­ sion said that he was going to fly to Moscow to continue his work, he participated in a press conference with Romanenko and Alek­sandrov at Baikonur the next day. (He may have flown to Moscow and back.) Apparently the Soviets were testing how his piloting abilities were affected by a week in weightlessness. They reported that he had passed the test "with flying colors." 19° (The Soviet press also commented that Levchenko was "the most laconic partic­ ipant in the news conference" and answered questions with just two or three words, and Romanenko and Aleksandrov had to come to his assistance.)

Beginning the Era of Permanent Occupancy?

As 1987 ended, Titov and Manarov were settling in aboard Mir. The Soyuz TM-4 spacecraft was moved to the forward port using the standard procedure on December 30, freeing the rear port for resupply flights. Moscow World Service announced that the crew would remain in orbit for a year, and quoted deputy flight director Blagov as saying that it was a "small step to a manned flight to Mars." 191

During 1988, plans call for Titov and Manarov to be visited by two crews carrying foreign cosmonauts. First will be a Bulgarian, Aleksandur Aleksandrov (not to be confused with the Russian Aleksandrov who just returned to Earth), scheduled to be launched on June 21 with Vladimir Solovyev and Viktor Savinykh. 192 The Bulgarian Aleksandrov served as his countryman Georgiy Ivanoy's backup on Soyuz 33; that spacecraft was unable to dock with Salyut 6 in 1979 because of an engine failure. In November, a Frenchman (either Jean-Loup Chretien who flew on Soyuz T-6 in 1982 or Michel Tognini) is scheduled for launch. This joint mission will last a month, rather than a week. 198

Blagov stated that it was "quite likely" that a doctor would fly to Mir to examine the cosmonauts, raising the possibility that one of the visiting crews will include a physician. Neither of the Soviet cosmonauts announced as members of the June mission are physi­ cians. Whether the Soviets are leaving open the possibility of changing that crew, or plan to send the doctor along on the No­ vember mission, is unclear. It is also possible that there will be an all-Soviet crew that visits Titov and Manarov that would include a doctor. An interesting announcement was made in January 1988 that as part of one of the international visiting missions, the cos monauts would perform a spacewalk using "jet bicycles." 194 This is probably connected with the French visit to Mir since it had been previously reported that the French cosmonaut would per­ form a spacewalk.

Barring unforeseen difficulties, the transfer of operations from Romanenko and Aleksandrov to Titov and Manarov should signal the beginning of permanent occupancy of Mir. Ten years after the launch of Salyut 6, which opened the possibility of a permanently occupied space station by virtue of its two docking ports, the Sovi­ ets may finally have achieved their goal.

The next module will not be launched to Mir until late 1988 or early 1989 according to Soviets speaking at the October 1987 meet­ ing of the International Astronautical Federation. 195 It will be for remote sensing, and include a special airlock for EVA egress. Next will be the materials processing module, followed by a life sciences module called Medilab. The full space station will not be complete until the 1990s. This is somewhat slower than had been expected by Western analysts, and may reflect difficulties in preparing the modules themselves. Another factor is that the Soviets have said that their primary interest in a space shuttle is for returning mate­ rial to Earth, which could be a reference either to the products de­veloped in the module or the modules themselves. 196 Thus the de­ velopment of the shuttle, and its launch vehicle Energiya, may also be pacing items in the full development of the space complex.

Pages 117-118 not done charts



171 Moscow Domestic Service, 1200 GMT, October 17, 1987.

172 Covault, C. Soviet Biological Satellite Misses Target by 2,000 Miles. Aviation Week and Space Technology, October 19, 1987, p. 33; Cosmonauts "Tired," Work Day Cut to 5.5 Hours, Aerospace Daily, October 19,1987, p. 95.

173. TASS, 1034 GMT, November 10, 1987.

174 TASS, 0731 GMT, November 18, 1987.

175 TASS, 0854 GMT, December 3, 1987.

176 . TASS, 1832 GMT, December 9, 1987 177 Manarov's first name appears variously in the Soviet press as Musakhiy, Musat and Musa. 179 Moscow Domestic Service, 0700 GMT, December 18, 1987.

179 TASS, 1352 GMT, December 19,1987. The report also listed Aleksandr Shchukin as Lev chenko's backup.

180 Izvestiya, December 30, 1987, p. 1,3.

181 Moscow Domestic Service, December 29, 1987, 0639 GMT.

182 Moscow Television Service, 1800 GMT, December 29, 1987.

183 Ibid.

184 Ibid.

185 Moscow Television Service, 1530 GMT, December 30, 1987.
188 Ibid. Commentary by FBIS inserted in story.

187 Moscow Domestic Service, 1835 GMT, December 30, 1987.

188 Moscow Television Service, 1530 GMT, December 20, 1987. 180 Moscow Domestic Service, 1200 GMT, December 23, 1987.

190 Moscow Domestic Service, 1835 GMT, December 30, 1987.

191 Moscow World Service, 1500 GMT, December 24, 1987.

192 Sofia BTA, 1850 GMT, December 25, 1987. The backup crew is Vladimir Lyakhov, Alek sandr Serebrov, and Bulgarian Krasimir Stoyanov.

193. Paris AFP, 0904 GMT, October 21, 1987.

194. Moscow World Service, 1200 GMT, January 4, 1988.

195 Personal observation at October 1987 IAF Congress, Brighton, England.

196 Ibid.

Page last modified: 10-04-2016 22:15:09 ZULU