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Chertok and his wife Yekaterina “Katya”

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Chertok and his wife Yekaterina “Katya” 

at their dacha.

 35.  Pirogovo is a suburban area located about 70 kilometers west of the Moscow city center.


The Hot Summer of 1971

From the author’s archives.

Retired veterans of the Soviet space program, from left to right: A. G. Reshetin, 

B. Ye. Chertok, V. V. Vorshev, and V. F. Skvortsov at Chertok’s dacha in 2006.

problems there. We just need to make sure your planners don’t put on airs, 

and we’ll always come to terms.”

That evening Rauschenbach and Chizhikov interrupted my late-night 


“It’s time to get ready to go home,” said Chizhikov. “We’re here to bum a 

ride off of you. Today neither of us has a car.”

I glanced at my watch. It really was time. After scooping all the classified 

materials into the file, I telephoned the first department.

“Yesterday at Pirogovo we had an incident. I wanted to drop by and see 

you first thing in the morning, but instead I ended up in the shop and I got 

all tied up,” said Chizhikov.

“What happened?”

“An ambulance took Aleksey Isayev straight from his garden plot to 

the hospital.”

“He got a Czech Jawa motorcycle quite recently. Don’t tell me he crashed.”

“No, that’s not it at all. It seems he had bad chest pains.”

“That’s worse. Wait. Let’s find out what’s going on.”

I dialed Isayev’s number on the Kremlin line. His first deputy—Vladislav 

Nikolayevich Bogomolov—answered. He was also the owner of a garden plot 

in Pirogovo. Bogomolov confirmed that Isayev had started to have intense pains 


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

near his heart. They called an ambulance from Mytishchi.


 At the Mytishchi 

hospital the diagnosis was that he’d had a heart attack. Consequently, they put 

him on strict bed rest on his back, IV line, and shots. He, Bogomolov, imme-

diately informed the ministry of this calamity. There they had a fit: “What do 

you mean, he’s in Mytishchi? Get him to the kremlevka immediately!”



ambulance rushed from the kremlevka to Mytishchi with a request to release 

the patient. The Mytishchi doctors objected. In their opinion it was risky to 

transport the patient in such a condition.

After examining Isayev, the kremlevka medical staff supposedly said that 

there was absolutely no danger and that it wasn’t a heart attack at all, but 

pains from intercostal neuralgia.


 They took Isayev to the kremlevka. For the 

time being Bogomolov couldn’t say whether Isayev had had a heart attack or 

neuralgia. And I had been on the verge of inviting Aleksey Isayev to fly with 

me to Yevpatoriya for the landing of Dobrovolskiy’s crew. I had dreamed of 

talking him into making a trip with me to Koktebel after the landing and 

spending the day there reminiscing about our prewar croquet tournaments 

and strolls to Kara-Dag.

I reminded Chizhikov: “Remember what a fantastic time we had with 

Isayev in Koktebel—it’s been 31 years! Those were the good old days. Koktebel 

is quite close, but apparently it’s not in the cards any more for us to get there.”

What should we do now? We couldn’t possibly drive home. I called Yevgeniy 

Vorobyev on the Kremlin line. Despite the late hour he was on the job.

“I’ll try to find out. But keep in mind that at the kremlevka they don’t like 

it when we interfere.” Five minutes later Vorobyev telephoned.

“I managed to find out that the situation is serious. Of course, they told 

me that they’re doing everything they can and they don’t need our help….”

On 25 June 1971, Aleksey Isayev died. The staff at the Khimmash Design 

Bureau was stunned.


 Isayev not only enjoyed the authority of a chief, but 

also the sincere love of his staff, which rarely comes to a boss from his subor-

dinates. Rarely did a spacecraft get along without Isayev’s orbital correction 

engines. Air-defense, missile-defense, and submarine-launched missiles flew 

using Isayev’s engines.

 36.  Mytishchi is a city on the northeastern limits of Moscow.

 37.  Kremlevka was the nickname of the Kremlin hospital where high-ranking officials were 


 38. Intercostal neuralgia describes severe pains due to rib muscles contracting during 


 39. In 1967, Isayev’s OKB-2 had been renamed Konstruktorskoye byuro khimicheskogo 

mashinostroyeniya (Design Bureau of Chemical Machine Building) or KB Khimmash.


The Hot Summer of 1971

Isayev didn’t have many people who were jealous of him, and he had no 

enemies. I had known him for 35 years. All that time it seemed that not only 

his brain, but also his heart, burned with the flame of engineering creativity. 

He belonged to a rare breed of creator/manager who could arrive at work in 

the morning, assemble his colleagues, and say, “Everything that we thought up 

yesterday needs to be tossed into the trash can and forgotten. We slipped up.”

Isayev was not afraid to admit his own mistakes and bravely contested 

popular opinion. His behavior sometimes caused outrage in the ministries 

when deadlines were missed because Isayev demanded that a large amount of 

production stock be “thrown out” like potato peelings. Simplicity, approach-

ability, and unselfishness set Isayev apart from his peers.

Mishin telephoned me from the firing range.

“Tomorrow we have a launch. I won’t be able to fly back for Aleksey’s 

funeral. As an old comrade and representative of our organization, you go 

support the Isayevites.”

It wasn’t difficult to arrange support at funerals. First Deputy Minister 

Tyulin headed the Funeral Commission. He explained: “There’s just one day 

for the funeral. On 27 June there is the N-1 launch. On 30 June there is the 

landing of the Soyuz-11 crew. A day later all the managers, including those from 

Isayev’s firm, must fly out to Yevpatoriya. That means the funeral has to take 

place on 28 June. The Central Committee gave instructions to have the burial 

at Novodevichye Cemetery. We need to quickly select the site. I’ve been told 

that his relatives insist on the old section of Novodevichye. It’s very difficult 

to find a plot there. But all the commands have been given. You in the city 

prepare the Palace of Culture for him to lie in state. You know the drill. The 

ministry will absorb all the expenses. Don’t forget about transportation. If we 

don’t have enough buses, rent municipal ones. Help Bogomolov if problems 

arise. I will come straight to the Palace first thing in the morning.”

The launch of N-1 No. 6L wedged itself into our ritual schedule as a 

funeral salute. Liftoff took place overnight from 26 to 27 June 1971 at 2:15:52 

Moscow time. Beginning in the evening, communication was established 

with the firing range via the high-frequency line, but we weren’t able to set 

up real-time transmission of telemetry parameters. We received information 

about what happened after liftoff in the form of not very distinct oral reports 

from the bunker, and then from the firing range computer center, where the 

telemetry systems’ information was processed in real time.

All 30 first-stage engines transitioned to mode. The rocket lifted off nor-

mally. Five seconds after liftoff the telemetry operators began their running 

commentary: “Pitch and yaw normal; roll angle is increasing.”


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

From the first seconds, the rocket began to spin about its longitudinal axis. 

After 14 seconds of flight, the roll angle exceeded 8°. The gyro platform issued 

the AVD (emergency engine shutdown) command. The command failed to 

pass. It was inhibited until 50 seconds into the flight. This inhibit had been 

introduced after the crash of No. 5L for the safety of the launch facilities. By 

the 50th second of flight, the rocket had spun 60°. As soon as the inhibit was 

removed, all 30 engines of the first stage shut down at once. The rocket fell to 

the ground 20 kilometers away. If it hadn’t been for the safety inhibit of the 

AVD command, the rocket would have crashed a kilometer from the launch 

site. The blast wave, equivalent to 500 tons of TNT, would have destroyed the 

launch facilities for a second time.

In 1948, during the testing of R-1 missiles in Kapustin Yar, Pilyugin had 

dared to assert to the State Commission that failures provide us with experi-

ence that we don’t gain during normal launches. Recalling this, addressing 

Pilyugin and me at one of the accident investigation commission sessions, 

Barmin said with bitter satisfaction: “You have experimentally confirmed 

the fulfillment of my requirement for defective rockets to fall a safe distance 

from the launch site.”

What forces spun the rocket? It seemed the answer lay on the surface—a 

false command from the roll-control system. This scenario has been declared 

the most likely in similar cases. During that very difficult, sleepless night, even 

I gave in to the hypnosis of that very simple explanation—that it was a failure 

in the roll command transmission circuit. But the more likely scenario was 

that the command polarity was mixed up. “The same thing happened on our 

first Soyuz. They could also have gotten it mixed up on a rocket,” said those 

taking part in the all-nighter in Podlipki, having no credible information 

from the firing range. Proponents of the mixed-up polarity tried to calculate 

the angular rate of spin. In this case, instead of the stabilization automatic 

control unit providing negative feedback, the control unit provided positive 

feedback. Rather than responding to the roll angle error with counteracting 

torque from the rotation control nozzles, the automatic control unit would 

add to and intensify the torque.

By 10 a.m., according to reports from the firing range, the scenarios 

pointing to the culpability of the control system and also the likelihood of 

mixed polarity had been rejected. Georgiy Degtyarenko explained via the high-

frequency communication line that the control system had fought honorably 

for the rocket’s life. From the very first seconds of flight, the engines’ control 

nozzles attempted to stop the rotation but quickly reached their stops, and the 

spinning continued. Perturbation torque about the longitudinal axis, which 

came from who-knows-where, proved to be much greater than the torque of 

the control nozzles.


The Hot Summer of 1971

That day they telephoned us relentlessly from the offices of the Central 

Committee, VPK, and various ministries and related organizations, convinced 

that the secret of the N-1 crash had already been discovered, but that we were 

intentionally keeping them in the dark and hiding something. Khitrik was one 

of the first that day to come out with a scenario, which was later proved true.

“Using the reports of our comrades from the firing range, we have tried to 

reproduce the process on our models. The control system acts that way only 

when perturbation torque is five times greater than the value you noted in 

the baseline data. I have already informed Pilyugin of that, and he informed 

Mishin. Before they arrive I advise that we call together all the aero- and gas-

dynamics specialists and let them try to find where this perturbation is coming 

from, given that we didn’t have it during the exact same seconds during the 

first launch.”

All that I managed to do on that chaotic and difficult day was to pass 

on Khitrik’s doubts to the chief of the aerodynamics department, Vladimir 

Roshchin. “We couldn’t have committed such a large error,” he said. “Perhaps 

during modifications of the aft end they deformed the structure. Tell Khitrik 

to look for the problem in his own shop.” Alas, it all turned out to be con-

siderably more complicated. This became clear after prolonged studies and 

labor-intensive experimental work.

It wasn’t until late that evening, at home, that I was able to remi-

nisce about Isayev. Katya and I sorted through memories of our meetings with 

him beginning in 1935: in Fili, Khimki, Koktebel, the Urals, Podlipki; strolls 

together through Leningrad; the commotion of children on the meadows in 

Pirogovo; the exclamations of “well, blow my brains out” on the occasion of 

both success and failure.

Daniil Khrabrovitskiy—the screenwriter of the film Ukroshcheniye ognya 

[Taming the Fire]—was shaken when I called to inform him of Isayev’s death.


“His stories, his dedication, his real help with the launches of rockets 

enriched the film much more than I had anticipated,” said Khrabrovitskiy. 

“Despite your objections, after getting to know Isayev, I sent Bashkirtsev to 

the construction of Magnitogorsk.


 I didn’t make up the scene with the black 

caviar in the cold barracks. Isayev told me about that.”

 40.  Daniil Yakovlevich Khrabrovitskiy (1923–1980) was a well-known Soviet director who 

directed Taming the Fire, the first Soviet-era fictionalization about the space program put to 

film. Chertok has much to say about this film in the final chapter of this volume.

 41.  Andrey Bashkirtsev was the lead character in Taming the Fire, representing a fictionalized 

version of Sergey Korolev.


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

On the day of Isayev’s funeral, according to the established tradition, he lay 

in state at the Palace of Culture. However, it wasn’t long before such a throng 

(several thousand people) had gathered at the entrance to the building that it 

became clear: it would not be possible to allow everyone to pass through the 

hall. The Commission made an unusual decision—the casket would be car-

ried out to the central square of Kaliningrad. The employees of Isayev’s design 

bureau very efficiently reorganized the previously written protocol.

Isayev lay in an open casket in the town’s central square under the hot 

June sun. Fresh-cut flowers carefully placed by the casket by the hundreds 

of people who had come to pay their last respects were added to the many 

dozens of wreaths from organizations. The Hero of Socialist Labor gold medal, 

four Orders of Lenin, the Lenin and State Prize laureate badges of honor, the 

Order of the October Revolution, and a multitude of medals sparkled on red 

pillows. I never saw Isayev decked out in with all of these government awards 

when he was alive.

That day Pravda came out with an obituary and picture of Isayev. After 

Korolev’s obituary in 1966, this was the second posthumous declassification.

Aleksey Mikhaylovich Isayev was among the first creators of rocket 

engines and the head of a design staff that created a whole series of 

engines for missile and space technology. The engines created under 

the leadership of A. M. Isayev were installed on Vostok, Voskhod, and 

Soyuz piloted spacecraft and on automatic interplanetary stations…. 

Aleksey Mikhaylovich was one of the designers of an airplane that 

performed the world’s first flight using a reactive engine on 15 May 

1942. In 1944, A. M. Isayev became the head of a leading engine 

building design organization….

Below the obituary were the signatures of Brezhnev, Podgornyy, Kosygin, 

other members of the Politburo, ministers, and also Tabakov, Tyulin, Glushko, 

Grushin, Lyulka, and Kuznetsov. It is inexplicable why the Central Committee 

dared place the signature of Grushin—a developer of air-defense and missile-

defense missiles—under the obituary and drew the line at publishing the 

surnames of the main consumers of Isayev’s engines—Makeyev and Mishin.


 42.  Petr Dmitriyevich Grushin (1906–1993) was one of the most powerful and famous chief 

designers in the Soviet defense industry. He headed OKB-2 (later known as MKB Fakel) from 

1953 until his death; this organization designed many important air-defense and antiballistic 

missiles in the Soviet military arsenal.


The Hot Summer of 1971

Tyulin opened the funeral ceremony. His speech repeated the text of the 

obituary printed in Pravda. Before my speech I was handed a note: “Don’t 

mention anything about projects for Makeyev or missiles.” I couldn’t find 

the speech that I’d written and so I spoke extemporaneously. Later I was told 

that my speech was “from the heart.” The only words I remembered were that 

“Isayev was a real human being and a great engineer.”

Makeyev was deprived of the right in his eulogy to mention Isayev’s decisive 

role in the strategic missiles that Makeyev had developed for submarines.



got out of that difficulty by emphasizing Isayev’s human qualities.

According to established tradition, a second funeral ceremony took place 

at Novodevichye Cemetery. Other orators spoke more briefly. Not everyone got 

to throw a handful of earth into the grave. In the old section of Novodevichye 

with thousands in attendance, it was anything but easy. After filling the grave, 

the gravediggers with their professional knack erected a hill of wreaths and 

fresh-cut flowers. I had arranged with [my wife] Katya, who had dozens of 

acquaintances here, that if we were to lose one another in the multitude of 

people at the cemetery, we would meet up in the parking area. I wanted to 

walk through to the graves of Boguslavskiy and Voskresenskiy.


 For me this 

was a visceral need. That day, two true comrades of mine had been joined by 

a third, perhaps my closest.

While I was standing at Voskresenskiy’s grave an unfamiliar woman 

approached me.

“You don’t recognize me?”

I looked at the no-longer-young, somehow imperceptibly familiar face 

under the mop of frizzy gray hair and confessed that I didn’t recognize her.

“It’s me, Mira, have you forgotten?”

After embracing, I asked: “But where’s Oleg?”


“Oleg has been gone for a long time. He just couldn’t deal with the tranquil 

life. I have a candidate of sciences degree. It’s interesting work, right near here 

on Pirogovskaya Street. I have two children. There’s no time to be bored. I saw 

the obituary in the newspaper and came to say goodbye to Isayev. I remembered 

him as a gallant knight, although back then he didn’t have a single medal.”

“He really was a gallant knight,” I said. “But unlike Don Quixote, he 

possessed the talent of an engineer and he performed real feats. He didn’t do 

 43.  Isayev’s organization designed engines for several Makeyev rockets, including the R-17, 

R-27, R-27M, R-27K, R-27U, R-29, R-29M, R-29R, R-29RM, and R-39.

 44.  Leonid Voskresenskiy and Yevgeniy Boguslavskiy had died in 1965 and 1969, respectively.

 45.  Author’s note: I wrote about Oleg Bedarev and his wartime girlfriend Mira in Volume 

I of my memoirs (pp. 314–315).


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

battle with windmills. But he worked on fantastic designs without losing his 

common sense.”

Mira opened her bag, pulled out an envelope, and handed it to me.

“What’s this?”

“You’ll see.”

“Let’s walk to my car, Katya is waiting there, we’ll drive to the funeral 


“No. Soon everyone will be leaving; I want to be here alone for a while.”

It wasn’t until I got home that I opened the envelope. It contained a photo-

graph from the summer of 1945: Oleg Bedarev and I. We were both in military 

uniform. Printed on a sheet of onionskin paper were poignant lines of poetry. Oleg 

had performed them while he played his guitar at our last “fireside” get-together.

A somber yellow field and grove.

The wind flutters like a captive dove.

The autumn whirlwind stirs dead leaves—

No more their beauty will we see.

Winds tear them up, drive them away,

Laughing and moaning as they play…

The bitter moan of words unsaid,

The anguish of dreams that are left for dead.

The pain of a strange and unknown dream…

The autumn whirlwind stirs dead leaves.

Life’s tumult ended…. And in the mist

They hug the ground, reduced to dust.

Hear their prayer, life’s truth, O Earth.

Receive them in peace, you who gave them their birth.

The next morning, 29 June 1971, I flew to Yevpatoriya with Kerimov 

and a group of Isayev’s coworkers who had stayed on for the funeral. There 

everyone had already prepared for the communication sessions for undocking, 

subsequent spacecraft orientation, deorbit, and landing. Minister Afanasyev 

and Mishin were supposed to fly in from the firing range. However, the failure 

of N-1 No. 6L had not yet been explained, and they did not feel that they 

could depart for Yevpatoriya.

Tregub reported to the State Commission that the crew, having spent 

around 23 days in space, had set a record. They had conducted experiments 

with the military’s OD-4 optical sight/range finder, with the Orion ultraviolet-

range observation system, and with the secret Svinets (Lead) radar system. They 

had photographed Earth, performed spectrographic studies of the horizon, 

and conducted experiments on gamma flux intensity and on a procedure for 


The Hot Summer of 1971

manual orientation of the station. Tentatively, this very intense program of 

scientific, military, medical, and technical experiments should be considered 

fulfilled. The final report would be done after the materials that the cosmonauts 

delivered to the ground were processed.

The crew spent the last two days deactivating the orbital station, packing 

up materials, and activating and preparing the spacecraft. The undocking com-

mand was supposed to be issued on 29 June at 2125 hours. After separation 

from the station, two orbits were allocated for preparation for descent. The 

crew would perform manual orientation outside our coverage zone and would 

transfer control to the gyro instruments. NIP-16 would issue the command 

to activate the descent cycle; NIP-15 would stand by in reserve. An SKTDU 

deboost burn would take place at 0147 hours on 30 June.


Vorobyev confirmed that, according to the physicians’ findings, the condi-

tion of the cosmonauts during the last few days was good. No one expected 

anything sensational at the traditional nocturnal meeting in the cramped control 

room of NIP-16. All commands to the vehicle were routed without a glitch. 

The crew reported the execution of all operations on time, without causing any 

aggravation on the ground. Everything was proceeding calmly and according 

to schedule. The ship-based tracking stations received information from the 

spacecraft as it passed over them and reported in real time that the engine had 

executed the deboost burn at the calculated time and the integrator had shut it 

down. The Command and Measurement Complex and GOGU accumulated 

good experience monitoring the spacecraft during the landing orbit.

After engine shutdown, the spacecraft left the coverage zone of the ship-based 

tracking stations located in the Atlantic. Separation took place over Africa—the 

Habitation Compartment and Instrument-Systems Compartment were jettisoned 

from the Descent Module. The Descent Module did not have a radio telemetry 

system. We had hoped to hear about what had happened after separation in the 

cosmonauts’ oral report before entry into the atmosphere when the hot plasma 

would shut down the Zarya system’s slot antenna. A Mir multichannel automatic 

recording unit had been installed to record the processes in the Descent Module. 

After the death of Komarov, two Olegs—Sulimov and Komissarov—and their 

comrades at the Institute of Measurements perfected this stand-alone recorder, 

increasing its thermal protection and mechanical strength.


 46. SKTDU—Sblizhayushche-korrektiruyushchaya tormozhnaya dvigatelnaya ustanovka 

(Approach and Correction Braking Engine Unit).

 47.  This was the Scientific-Research Institute of Measurement Technology (NII IT), which 

had spun off from TsNIImash in July 1966. NII IT was responsible for developing data sensors 

and recording devices for various Soviet spacecraft.


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

“We asked Dobrovolskiy the whole time to give us a running commentary 

as soon as the Descent Module enters our coverage zone, but he hasn’t said a 

word,” complained Yeliseyev. “It’s strange that Volkov is quiet. During the last 

session he was very talkative.”

“When you and Shatalov descended,” I affirmed, “we saw how effective the 

slot antenna was. Shatalov’s running commentary replaced telemetry for us.”

“Before undocking, the ‘hatch closed’ indicator for the hatch between the 

Descent Module and the Habitation Compartment didn’t light up. Volkov 

was clearly nervous, but he quickly figured it out and stuck some bandage 

tape under the limit switch that registers hatch closure. Then they were quite 

wordy in their running commentary,” said Tregub.

“They’re still doing great,” I said, sticking up for them. “They’re the first crew 

of a Long-Duration Orbital Station. They’ve withstood an unscheduled flight 

and for one thing, let’s tell it straight, they performed a very intense program.”

A report came over the loudspeaker: “The space monitoring service track-

ing the Descent Module per prognosis.”

Finally, the long-awaited report arrived: “General Kutasin’s service reports 

that airplanes have spotted the Descent Module.


 Parachute descent is in prog-

ress. Per prognosis the overshoot is around 10 kilometers, no more, relative to 

the calculated touchdown point. Helicopters are flying out to the landing site.”

After about 20 minutes we began to get nervous. No more reports were 

coming in from the landing area. The officer in contact with the search and 

rescue service felt guilty. We pelted him with a flurry of rebukes, but he was 

unable to tell us anything. State Commission Chairman Kerimov had the 

duty of being the first to report to Moscow—to Smirnov and Ustinov—about 

the successful completion of the mission. But he found himself cut off from 

communication with the landing area.

“It’s not General Kutasin’s fault! Most likely, Commander-in-Chief of the 

Air Force Aviation Marshal Kutakhov has taken over communication and has 

ordered Kutasin not to report without his knowledge,” was the explanation 

that an experienced communications operator gave.


Around 30 minutes after the calculated landing time, Kerimov decided to 

complain to Ustinov about the behavior of Air Force Commander-in-Chief 

Kutakhov. It took another 10 minutes to connect with Ustinov. The room 

fell silent. Finally Kerimov gave the sign: “Quiet!” But this time we heard 

 48.  Major-General Aleksandr Ivanovich Kutasin (1903–1978) headed the Air Force’s search 

and rescue service for the Soviet human spaceflight program.

 49.  Marshal Pavel Stepanovich Kutakhov (1914–1984) served as Commander-in-Chief of 

the Soviet Air Force from 1969 to 1984.


The Hot Summer of 1971

no complaints about Kutakhov. Kerimov said nothing. He hung up. With a 

changed expression on his face, Kerimov began to recount what he had heard 

from Ustinov.

“Two minutes after landing, a rescue crew from a helicopter ran up to 

the Descent Module. It was lying on its side. Externally there was no damage 

at all. They knocked on the side. No one answered. They quickly opened the 

hatch. All three were sitting in their seats in tranquil poses. There were dark 

blue spots on their faces. Blood was running from the nose and ears. They 

pulled them out of the Descent Module. Dobrovolskiy was still warm. Doctors 

continued to perform artificial resuscitation. According to their reports from 

the landing site, death was the result of asphyxiation. No foreign odors were 

detected in the Descent Module. Measures were taken to evacuate the bodies 

to Moscow for examination. Specialists from Podlipki and the Cosmonauts 

Training Center flew out to the landing site for an investigation.”

In the total silence someone said: “It was depressurization.”

The horrible news stunned everyone. No one delighted in the clear blue 

sky or in the vast expanse of the mirror-smooth sea from whence the sweet, 

fresh morning air wafted through the wide-flung windows.

At 11:30, the State Commission and everyone who could fit onto the 

airplane departed from the Saki airfield for Moscow. A small group stayed 

on in Yevpatoriya to monitor the flight of DOS No. 1, which went down in 

the history of cosmonautics as Salyut 1. The orbital corrections prepared and 

performed for its missions supported the station’s flight until October. But 

now this no longer mattered. According to the disaster investigation results, so 

many measures would have to be taken that, in the best-case scenario, the next 

piloted Soyuz would not be able to fly until early 1972. For the N-1, the break 

in flight-development testing, regardless of what the other commission found, 

would also drag on for at least another six months. These were the thoughts 

running through our heads on the airplane. (In fact, considerably more time 

was needed for all the modifications. Test flights of unpiloted Soyuzes didn’t 

start up again until June 1972.



After arriving at the site where the Descent Module had touched down, the 

group of specialists headed by cosmonaut Aleksey Leonov and Descent Module 

developers Andrey Reshetin and Vladimir Timchenko looked over the module 

and checked it for leaks. They were not able to detect any off-nominal loss of 

pressure integrity. They removed the magnetic tape from the Mir recorder and 

 50.  This was the Kosmos-496 mission, flown from 26 June to 2 July 1972.


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

quickly dispatched it. Everyone was confident that after it was processed the 

cosmonauts’ cause of death would immediately become apparent.

Moscow met us with such a heat wave that the Crimea seemed cool by 

comparison. Just a week before, I had stood in the honor guard by Isayev’s casket 

in Kaliningrad. Now they were preparing the Red Banner Hall of the Central 

Building of the Soviet Army for a funeral ceremony of three cosmonauts at 

one time. All three were posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet 

Union. It was the second time for Volkov. From the Central Building of the 

Soviet Army, through a vast throng of people, the funeral procession headed 

to Red Square. The urns containing the cosmonauts’ ashes were immured in 

the Kremlin Wall.

From the author’s archives.

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