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This picture was taken outside of Korolev’s former home. From left to right are 

B. Ye. Chertok, A. G. Reshetin, N. S. Koroleva (Korolev’s daughter), I. S. Prudnikov, 

and A. V. Lukyashko.

 16.  Leninsk was renamed Baykonur in December 1995.

350


Sun City

abroad” of the former Soviet Union. The next day we had a minibus at our 

disposal to tour the various monuments. By “we” I mean the family of Nataliya 

Sergeyevna Koroleva, the daughter of Sergey Pavlovich, and myself. Nataliya 

Sergeyevna was accompanied by her children Masha, Andrey, and Sergey, 

already grown and on their own, the grandchildren of the legendary Korolev. 

Nataliya Sergeyevna Koroleva already had her own grandchildren—Sergey 

Pavlovich’s great grandchildren. By force of habit I continue to call Nataliya 

Sergeyevna Koroleva, who is a doctor of medical sciences and a surgeon, by 

the nickname “Natasha.”

In the first volume of Rockets and People I talked about the work of Soviet 

specialists who lived and worked in Germany from 1945 to 1946, restoring 

rocket technology together with the Germans after World War II. The Germans 

perceived us, the victors—officers and soldiers of the Soviet Army—as occupi-

ers. Therefore, the wives and children who arrived 

from the Soviet Union to be with us in the spring 

of 1946 comprised a certain clan of victors. This 

isolated our families from the German populace more 

than the language barrier. When interacting, the 

local residents emphatically assigned the husbands’ 

ranks to their wives. [My wife] Katya was indig-

nant that the German women who worked in our 

villa, the chauffeur, and even the wives of German 

specialists addressed her not by name or surname, 

but as “Frau Major.” They called [Pilyugin’s wife] 

Antonina Konstantinovna Pilyugina “Frau Oberst.” 

Our children, who didn’t know the language, didn’t 

understand this, especially since the German children 

shunned them.

In late May 1946, Korolev’s first wife—Kseniya Maksimilianovna 

Vintsentini—arrived in Bleicherode from Moscow with their 11-year-old 

daughter Natasha. That summer a close friendship developed between our 

families. Nikolay Pilyugin’s wife Tonya was glad that her daughter Nadya now 

had a Russian friend. My wife Katya hoped these demure young girls might 

be able to keep an eye on our seven-year-old son Valentin while out on walks 

and splashing in the municipal pool and, if necessary, protect him against 

unnecessarily close association with German boys of his age. Since that time, 

the daughters of Korolev and Pilyugin, even after they became grandmothers, 

remained “Natasha” and “Nadya” to our families.

Korolev’s wife and daughter left Germany soon thereafter. The chief surgeon 

of the famous S. P. Botkin Hospital in Moscow, Kseniya Vintsentini, rushed 

back to her patients, and Natasha had to get back in time for school.

From the author’s archives.

Chertok’s wife, 

Yekaterina “Katya” 

Golubkina.

351


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

From the author’s archives.



The sculptor Z. M. Vilenskiy designed and built a bust of Korolev that now resides 

in Natasha Koroleva’s residence. From left to right are Ye. V. Shabarov, P. V. Tsybin, 

Koroleva, S. S. Kryukov, Vilenskiy, and B. Ye. Chertok.

From the author’s archives.



Chertok at the Gagarin Pavilion on the banks of the Syrdarya River at Baykonur in 

June 1995.

352


Sun City

After our return from Germany, changes took place in Korolev’s personal life.

17

 

This in no way affected our warm relationship with Kseniya Maksimilianovna 



and the adult Natasha. After the death of her great father, then her grandmother 

and mother, Natasha exhibited truly Korolevian character. She raised her sons, 

Andrey and Sergey, and her daughter, Masha, and obtained academic degrees, 

titles, and a State prize. In addition to all that, she created a one-of-a-kind private 

museum dedicated to the memory of Sergey Pavlovich Korolev.

The airplane in which I flew with Natasha from Moscow to the celebra-

tion of the 40th anniversary of NIIP-5—present-day Baykonur—served as a 

fantastic time machine for us. The “time machine” had carried Natasha and 

me from the German city of Bleicherode in the green forests of Thuringia in 

1946 to the “Sun City” of rockets—Leninsk in 1995.

This land became a second home, to borrow Voskresenskiy’s phrase, not 

only for the permanent residents of Site No. 10, but also for those of us who 

flew in every year beginning in 1956 for temporary assignments lasting many 

months. After the terrible war ended, we spent many years restoring, build-

ing, and creating. Over the years that have passed since the war we became 

accustomed to thinking that only earthquakes could destroy the city. It was 

painful and horrible to see how the once flourishing “Sun City” was now dying 

without a single shot fired, without earthquakes or other natural disasters.

In 1995, a French journalist and entrepreneur, who had studied the his-

tory of cosmonautics in general and our history in particular, visited Baykonur. 

After this he did several interviews, including one with me. He did not conceal 

his admiration and indignation: 

“I was stunned by the grandeur 

of what I saw in Baykonur. I 

visited all the launch facilities. 

Regardless of the plans of Russia 

and Kazakhstan, this needs to 

be preserved for generations 

to come like the Egyptian 

From the author’s archives.



Boris Chertok shown here on a visit

to Baykonur in June 1995. He is 

standing at Site No. 2 outside the 

MIK. The writing in the background

says “Road to the Stars.”

 

 

 17.  Korolev and his first wife, Kseniya Maksimilianovna Vintsentini (1907–1991), divorced 

in August 1949.

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Rockets and People: The Moon Race

pyramids. If everything is abandoned like this, the desert will eventually swal-

low up these testaments to the achievements of your cosmonautics. The town 

leaves a particularly painful impression. How can you endure the fact that a 

process of such barbaric destruction is going on? You have surrendered. You 

need your own General de Gaulle.” I agreed with him with regard to de Gaulle.

In the last few years so much has been said and written on this subject 

that I won’t torment the reader further and shall return to my recollections of 

the last days of May 1971.

After our “big stroll” it came time to return to the “provinces,” 

to Site No. 2. Along the way we stopped in at Site No. 17—the cosmonauts’ 

residence—in order to wish Aleksey Leonov a happy birthday. He was 37. He 

was proud of the fact that he had been named commander of Soyuz-11 for the 

upcoming flight to the DOS. “We will enter that haunted station,” Leonov 

assured us. We toasted Leonov with Narzan mineral water and promised to 

drink to his health with something stronger when we got home: a strict dry 

law was in effect here at the cosmonauts’ residence.

After autographing the mock newspaper posted on the wall, which had 

been published in honor of Leonov’s birthday, we went out to stroll around 

the garden. Here, especially thick greenery had grown up and already achieved 

its deep, summertime coloring. Thickets of shrubbery that reminded me of 

our acacia were in bloom giving off a delicate fragrance. That evening the air 

here was particularly delightful, somehow reminiscent of the atmosphere of 

gardens in Central Russia. At the entrance to the hotel real roses were in bloom. 

A rose garden instead of camel thorn! The Kazakhstani steppe was blooming 

with more than just its famous April tulips.

On the way home we once again discussed how the firing range had grown 

and improved. The steel latticework of a television tower adorned the right side 

of the road leading out of the city. Spread out on the left side of the concrete 

road was a distribution substation with masts and transformer pillars crowding 

each other, looking from the side like a tangled skein of wires. High-voltage 

transmission lines were running in various directions.

On the hill of the “third ascent” before the traditional checkpoint estab-

lished here back in 1956, two new 32-meter parabolas had sprouted up among 

the dozens of small antenna dishes. This was NIP-23 of the Command and 

Measurement Complex.

18

 18.  According to other data, NIP-23 was established in 1986 at Khorol in Ukraine and 



decommissioned in 1995.

354


Sun City

From here it was 30 kilometers to the N-1 launch sites. It was easy to 

determine the direction to them by the bright glow on the horizon. Work 

there was humming along 24 hours a day.

On Monday, 31 May 1971, the Soyuz-11 returned from the fueling sta-

tion and was installed in the vertical stand. They were awaiting the arrival of 

the cosmonauts for their fit check “sit in.” Out of hygienic considerations, the 

entire stand structure was thoroughly wiped down with alcohol at the request 

of the medical staff.

“What are you doing?” I asked them. “The smell alone will make the 

cosmonauts dizzy, and we need sober comments on the spacecraft.”

“We are hoping that you and the others in your entourage will take the 

opportunity to breathe in the rubbing alcohol fumes before they arrive. There 

won’t be any left for the cosmonauts,” they joked. The main crew sat in the 

spacecraft for more than the routine hour. There were many questions and 

disputes, but no serious modifications were required. The backup crew also 

sat in the spacecraft for around 20 minutes.

355


Chapter 16

The Hot Summer of 1971

On Monday, 31 May 1971, Bushuyev telephoned me at Site No. 2 over 

the high-frequency line from Podlipki and said that Keldysh had gathered 

the “inner circle” of the members of the expert commission on N1-L3 in his 

office. Keldysh announced that it was time to decide the fate of N1-L3. Then 

he enumerated the anomalies that were already known, which, if one took an 

objective approach, were difficult to dispute. According to Bushuyev, Keldysh 

was very amicably disposed. However, he firmly stated that he considered 

the approved version of a lunar expedition in 1973 to be unrealistic, and he 

proposed to Mishin, without conflicting with the expert commission, to find 

mutually acceptable solutions that together they could bring before the VPK

and then even higher.

Mishin showed a complete lack of self-restraint and objected to Keldysh on 

each point: “We’ll clarify everything and show that everything will work out.”

“I was forced to listen and keep my mouth shut,” said Bushuyev, “so that I 

wouldn’t put my boss in an awkward position. You and Feoktistov were lucky 

that you were at the firing range and weren’t involved in this spectacle.”

When I told Feoktistov about my conversation with Bushuyev, he had the 

following take on the situation: “It’s difficult to come to an agreement when 

one side is extremely resolute while lacking any sort of circumspection and the 

other side is cautious while having no right to make a decision.”

“Well, Konstantin Petrovich,” I objected, “when it comes to radical deci-

sions you’re also a master. On your advice they did away with spacesuits on 

the Voskhod; you then talked Korolev into reducing the diameter of the 

Soyuz Descent Module by 200 millimeters, as on the Voskhod, but we still 

lost, weight-wise: we had to put lead in for compensation. You squeezed us 

control specialists so much on the L3 that I lost faith in the system’s reliability. 

This year we are testing out the Soyuz-DOS docking assembly with internal 

transfer, but on the L3 until very recently the weight reports still have a transfer 

through open space.”

“We’re not going to pour salt in the wounds,” suggested Feoktistov. “The 

L3 is already obsolete. The experience that we will gain on the DOS will help 

357


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

a lot, and I don’t think it will be difficult for us to convince the top brass that 

the L3 needs to be redesigned.”

“I agree. Now the main thing is to manage to get into the DOS.”

Mishin, who flew in a day later, did not consider it necessary to tell us 

about the results of the N1-L3 discussion at the expert commission in Keldysh’s 

office. Mishin looked chipper, although he reported that he had spent three 

days in the hospital, after which he had flown to Perm on electoral business 

as a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR.

1

Yeliseyev arrived with Mishin. After the flight on Soyuz-10 he was named 



Tregub’s deputy for flight control.

2

 Yeliseyev insisted on inserting precise 



instructions into the crew procedures about the time limitation on firing the 

rendezvous and correction engine (SKD) during rendezvous in the event that 

the limits designated in the so-called phase-plane diagram were exceeded.

3

 This 



diagram depicted a corridor of permissible closing velocities depending on the 

distances between objects. The SKD fired to accelerate or brake when zigzags 

on the diagram leaned toward one of the walls of this corridor.

The instruments controlling rendezvous were adjusted using the graph that 

our theoreticians had designed. In order to write down a specific number in 

the procedures, on 2 June, I summoned Rauschenbach and Legostayev over 

the high-frequency line. They promised to give it some thought. The morning 

of 3 June, evidently under pressure from Shmyglevskiy, our chief theoretician 

on approach, they announced that Igla and the rendezvous control unit (BUS) 

could sort out how many seconds the engine needed to operate in each specific 

case better than a cosmonaut could.

4

Feoktistov and I tried to convince Yeliseyev. But he persistently argued, “You 



can’t give a cosmonaut a diagram indicating the maximum closing velocities 

and at the same time not tell him what he’s supposed to do when the motion 

parameters exceed these limits. If he doesn’t do anything, then later we’ll accuse 

 

1.  RSFSR—Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. All of the Soviet republics had 



their own legislative bodies, called Supreme Soviets, which were modeled after the national 

Supreme Soviet. On paper, the Supreme Soviet was the highest organ of state power, but the 

delegates “elected” to serve on the body were largely determined by patronage systems, and elec-

tions were always unopposed. The Supreme Soviet had little de facto power in state governance, 

which was exercised by the Council of Ministers.

 

2.  Yakov Isayevich Tregub (1918–2007) was a deputy chief designer at TsKBEM who also 



served as the flight director representing the design bureau on the Main Operations Control 

Group (GOGU), or the flight control team. He was appointed to this position in 1968.

 

3. SKD—Sblizhayushche-korrektiruyushchiy dvigatel.



 

4. BUS—Blok upravleniya sblizheniyem.

358


The Hot Summer of 1971

the crew of botching the rendezvous. I want to eliminate accusations against the 

crew of incorrect actions in the event the BUS fails to shut down the engine.”

Bashkin broke in, having taken offense over the BUS.

“But a failure can occur during a burn, too. In this case it’s simply danger-

ous to give the cosmonaut instructions.”

Feoktistov backed up Bashkin.

“I understand why the theoreticians don’t want to saddle the cosmonaut 

with the responsibility for making decisions, because an algorithm can be very 

complicated and one can’t foresee the combinations of all the input data that 

one will need to take into consideration.”

I connected Yeliseyev with Legostayev over the high-frequency line and pro-

posed that they continue their debate as two of “Rauschenbach’s best students.”

After lunch, a large meeting, referred to as a State Commission ses-

sion, took place in the MIK hall. Usually as many as a hundred participants 

and “enthusiasts” came to such prelaunch landmark sessions, although there 

were hardly more than 10 real members of the State Commission confirmed by 

decision of the Central Committee. Opening the meeting, Kerimov said that 

he had received information about a Politburo meeting at which the matter 

of the upcoming Soyuz-11 flight was discussed.

“Minister Afanasyev informed me that he, Keldysh, Smirnov, and Bushuyev 

were summoned to the Politburo. They attested that everything to support 

the flight and docking had been provided for, the necessary modifications 

had been confirmed by experimental tests, the crew was well trained, and 

everything would be in order. Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev asked that everything 

be checked one more time so that docking and transfer would be executed 

this time. Comrade Brezhnev asked us to convey the message that this is very 

important. He is entrusting everything to us and hopes that we will execute the 

mission. Afanasyev reported to the Politburo about the makeup of the crews. 

Kosygin asked whether they were all well trained. Smirnov assured him that 

yes, the crews had reported before the VPK about their readiness. Brezhnev 

announced that the French government had made an inquiry about when we 

intended to perform manned flights, in view of the fact that France was get-

ting ready to conduct an atmospheric nuclear test in the next few days.

5

 After 


consulting with comrade Keldysh, Smirnov and Bushuyev answered that a 

nuclear explosion would not interfere—that’s what comrade Afanasyev said.”

 

5.  The French conducted eight nuclear tests in 1970: three in May, one in June, two in 



July, and two in August. The test in June took place on 24 June and was known as Eridan.

359


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

It was up to Shabarov to report briefly about all the test results, and he 

took the opportunity to mention the “pshh” as well. Aleksandr Soldatenkov, 

Kozlov’s deputy, presented the report about the launch vehicle.

6

 Safety problems 



in the event of solar flares—and consequently, any other radiation hazard—

were Yevgeniy Vorobyev’s sphere of responsibility. The decision allowing the 

flight during a nuclear test had been made “at the top” without asking him. 

Vorobyev said nothing, but Severin voiced his opinion: “We need to instruct 

the cosmonauts to look to see what a nuclear explosion looks like from space.”

“What for?”

“So that they themselves can decide whether it is worth it to return to the 

ground if a nuclear shoot-out begins.”

This bit of improvisation made everyone laugh.

The State Commission set the dates: rollout to the launch site on 4 June 

and launch on 6 June 1971.

From the author’s archives.



Spacesuit Chief Designer Gay Severin 

(left) and Boris Chertok.

One hour remained before 

dinner, and I decided to spend it 

in a peaceful, horizontal position. 

But Mikhail Samokhin dropped by 

to share ideas on peopling new hotels 

and financing new construction.

On the way to the mess hall a very 

agitated Gay Severin stopped me.

“They called me from Site No. 17. 

The doctors have rejected Kubasov 

because of some sort of symptom and 

have made the decision to replace the 

entire crew. This means that I have to 

replace all the seat liners and medical 

belts, prepare the spacesuits, and other things, and the spacecraft is already 

integrated with the launch vehicle and is under the fairing.”

I was dumbfounded. We stopped in at the mess hall. Shabarov was 

calmly dining.

“Have you heard the news about the replacement of the crew?”

“This is the first I’ve heard of it.”

 

6.  Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Soldatenkov (1927–) was Kozlov’s most senior deputy respon-



sible for the development of R-7-derived launch vehicles. He served as the first deputy chief 

designer at TsKBEM’s Kuybyshev Branch (later TsSKB) from 1961 to 2006.

360


The Hot Summer of 1971

“You mean your boss didn’t think it was necessary to consult with you on 

such a fundamental issue?” asked an astonished Severin. Replacing the crew 

two days before a launch—this had never happened either in our experience 

or that of the Americans.

7

 Once again we were conducting a “world’s first” 



experiment.

We began a heated discussion of this sensational event in the mess hall. 

Mishin telephoned Shabarov and ordered him to assemble management in 

the MIK at 11 p.m.

“An order is an order,” said Shabarov and turned to Feoktistov: “Do we 

need to recalculate the center of gravity? After all, the cosmonauts’ weights 

are different.”

“We’ll get on it right away. Since that’s the case, I’ll go find our theoreticians.”

At the nighttime meeting in the MIK, Vorobyev said that an x ray done 

on Kubasov that morning during a standard medical examination had shown 

a dark spot on his right lung. The dark spot was the size of a chicken egg. 

Pravetskiy, Vorobyev’s predecessor in management of the Ministry of Health 

Third Main Directorate, was the first to become outraged.

“Why is this being discovered two days before the launch? This kind of 

process can’t develop in a week’s time.”

“It’s well known that the Air Force Medical Monitoring Service looks after 

the cosmonauts. Ask them,” replied Vorobyev.

“After they overlooked Belyayev’s ulcer, nothing surprises me,” Pravetskiy 

continued to rant. “You know that Belyayev had hemorrhages, but he man-

aged to avoid being examined for two years; he was afraid that he would be 

selected out of the corps of cosmonauts. In our time, to let a cosmonaut die 

in the hospital in Moscow from hemorrhaging is really not that easy! A team 

of surgeons headed by Vishnevskiy couldn’t save him. So that’s what the state-

ments of medical ignoramuses about constant monitoring are worth.”

8

“Well, Belyayev is not the issue now,” said Vorobyev in a conciliatory tone.



At the midnight meeting we came to an agreement that regardless of the 

“spot on the lungs,” the launch vehicle and spacecraft would roll out to the 

launch site at 6 a.m. This was the only possible decision. Semyonov, Severin, 

and Konstantin Gorbatenko, the head of all the machinists and installers, 

 

7.  In a similar situation, NASA replaced a single crewmember instead of the entire crew. 



In April 1970, just three days before launch, original Apollo 13 Command Module Pilot (CMP) 

Thomas K. Mattingly II was taken off the crew because of suspicion that he was not immune to 

German measles. Instead of replacing the entire crew, NASA management replaced Mattingly 

with John L. “Jack” Swigert, the original backup CMP.

 

8.  Belyayev died on 10 January 1970 as a result of complications from purulent peritonitis.



361

Rockets and People: The Moon Race

estimated the amount of work at 4 or 5 hours. Work would begin right after 

the launch vehicle was erected. But the replacement of the crew was the pre-

rogative of the State Commission.

In the morning, after accompanying the rocket train to the launch site, 

the State Commission convened. Opening such an unusual meeting at 7 a.m., 

Kerimov said: “The doctors have informed us that Kubasov cannot be cleared 

for flight. This is a total surprise for all of us. Just yesterday we reported the 

crew makeup to the Politburo, got the green light—and suddenly we have this 

snafu. Let Yevgeniy Ivanovich Vorobyev explain why this became possible.”

“The cosmonauts underwent the standard preflight examination. When 

Kubasov was x-rayed, they noticed a dark spot. They performed a sectional x ray. 

They determined that the mass was located at a depth of 9 centimeters and was 

the size of a five-kopeck piece.

9

 They assessed the process as acute and active.”



“Oh, come on,” Kerimov flared up, “cosmonauts are under continuous 

observation. After all, this isn’t an upset stomach. Where were you earlier?”

“The last time we performed an x ray on him was in February. Everything 

was in order, and all this time Kubasov has felt fine.”

“To the best of my medical knowledge, this is an acute tubercular process. 

Were we really not able to find anything suspicious in the blood work?”

“They have now detected an elevated eosinophil count; other indices 

are normal.”

“This is all just words, but do you have a written medical finding? Who 

signed it?”

Vorobyev assured them that there was such a paper.

Kerimov turned to Kamanin: “What shall we propose, Nikolay Petrovich?”

“We believe that engineer-tester Volkov should take the place of engineer-

tester Kubasov in the primary crew.

10

 Leonov has already been in space; he 



even performed a spacewalk. Volkov has already flown on a Soyuz.

11

 Such an 



engineer can cope with the mission.”

Mishin’s objection came as a surprise to everyone.

“We object. I consulted with our comrades. We have a document signed 

by the Air Force stating that in such cases the entire three-man crew must be 

replaced. The backup threesome underwent training with a good evaluation. 

 

9.  A Soviet five-kopeck coin was 2.5 centimeters in diameter.



 10. At the time, the three members of the station crews were defined as commander, 

engineer-tester (inzhener-ispytatel), and engineer-researcher (inzhener-issledovatel). Later on, 

after 1971, the second member of the crew was known as flight engineer (bortinzhener).

 11.  Volkov flew his first space mission on Soyuz-7 in October 1969.

362


The Hot Summer of 1971

A new crew that hasn’t worked together will be worse than the backup crew. 

We absolutely insist on replacing the entire crew.”

Air Force Chief Engineer and Deputy Commander-in-Chief Ponomarev 

stood behind Mishin rather than with Kamanin.

12

 The others weren’t about 



to get involved in the argument, reasoning, “What difference does it make to 

me who flies?”



 The State Commission decreed that the entire crew be replaced—the entire 

trio. Kamanin was tasked with informing the crew of the decision. Bashkin, 

who had participated in cosmonaut training and had graded their exams, took 

the crew replacement as a personal tragedy.

“My comrades and I spent so much time on the primary crew that we 

were completely at ease about them. But we simply did not have enough time 

for the backup crew. And they themselves didn’t think they’d be flying. In our 

history we have never changed a crew approved by the VPK. Frankly speaking, 

for some reason I was very confident in Kubasov; he’s practically an expert. 

And suddenly he gets an infiltration and lets us down.”

From the author’s archives.



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