Gherman Titov was the first man to film in Space when he flew on Vostok-2, and on display is the actual camera he used. We then come to one of the prize exhibits of Cosmonauts: the Vostok-6 capsule in which Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to fly in Space in June 1963. Tereshkova remains the only woman ever to fly solo in Space. The Soviet Union trumpeted Tereshkova’s flight as a sign of the equality of the sexes in their country; but it was to take another 18 years before the second Russian woman, Svetlana Savitskaya, was sent into Space. The USSR – and, indeed, post-Soviet Russia – remains a decidedly patriarchal society.
|Vostok-5 capsule on display in the Space
Museum in Kaluga. Like Tereshkova's
Vostok-6, this carried a single Cosmonaut,
who had to parachute out to land. Note
how the outer skin on the bottom of the
spacecraft has burnt off on re-entry.
|Picture of Tereshkova on one of the
Exhibition's souvenir tee-shirts.
Tereshkova opened the Exhibition
in September 2015
The juxtaposition of two capsules means that a fascinating comparison can be made between Vostok-6, the last of the Vostok series, and Voskhod-1, the successor. The basic shape of the capsule as a large ball didn’t change. But Voskhod-1 has a cavity into which was fitted a parachute measuring 1,000sq.m, and retro-rockets on the opposite side. This meant that the returning capsule could be slowed down sufficiently for the Cosmonauts (now in the plural) to remain in the capsule to land. Korolev was keen to make the most of this, and suggested that three men could be put in the capsule. One of the engineers, Boris Yegorov, objected; until Korolev suggested that it would be a good idea if one of the crew were an engineer; Yegorov changed his mind and became the third crew member.
|How Vostok and Voskhod capsules looked
when in Space. It was only "the ball" which
returned to Earth. (Cosmonautics
There were only two Voskhod missions, but each of them has a special place in the history of Spaceflight. Voskhod-1 had the first crew and the first and only improperly dressed Cosmonauts; and it was from Voskhod-2, on 18 March 1965, that Alexei Leonov performed the first ever walk in Space. It was very nearly the last thing that Leonov ever did.
|Symbolic depiction of a walk in Space outside the Exhibition. The reality was very different.
|An animated Alexei Leonov speaking in the
Science Museum in December 2015.
The Exhibition features the actual film of Leonov leaving the inflatable air-lock which took him from the Voskhod-2 capsule out into open Space. And the first thing to go wrong can be seen if you examine the film closely. When he first moves out, there is a crease in the sleeve of his spacesuit. But as he moves away from the air-lock, tethered to it by a cable, the crease disappears as the spacesuit inflates in a way it was not supposed to. This meant that Leonov could not move his hands, as his gloves were so swollen up that he could not bend his fingers. He can be seen on the film trying unsuccessfully to grab the cable.
|Illustration showing how the air-lock came out of the
Voskhod-2 spacecraft, displayed in the Space Museum
Having found his way back to the air-lock, another shock was in store for Leonov: his spacesuit was still too inflated for him to fit through the hatch. He was meant to go feet first, so that he could close the hatch before returning into the capsule. He decided that with his air supply quickly running out he had no alternative but to turn around and go head first into the hatch, pulling himself with all his might through the confined area. Once inside, though, he realised that the diameter of the air-lock was 1.6m, whilst he in his spacesuit and helmet measured 1.8m. He says that to this day he does not know how he managed to turn himself around in order to close the hatch and finally drop back into the capsule to tell his fellow Cosmonaut, Pavel Belyayev, what had happened. The whole spacewalk had taken 12 minutes. It must have been the longest 12 minutes of Leonov’s life.
|Leonov himself later painted this idealised picture of his spacewalk.
Opposite the film of the Voskhod-1 mission is written the tragic tale of what could happen when difficulties became too great to be overcome; and what can happen when politicians put political ambitions ahead of safety. Buoyed by the USSR’s successes in Spaceflight – the first satellite in Space; the first animal; the first man; the first woman; the first crew; the first spacewalk – the Politburo wanted to mark the fiftieth anniversary in 1967 of the Bolshevik Revolution with another first: the first link-up of two spacecraft in Space. It would be even better if this could coincide with the anniversary of Lenin’s birthday on 22 April, and the May Day Holiday. They chose to ignore the inconvenient fact that the new Soyuz spacecraft was not ready. Sadly, the father of the rocket programme, Sergei Korolev, was no longer around to stand up to them; he had died in January 1966 at the age of 59, following an operation for a tumour.
|Statue in honour of all those who have died
in the quest for Space exploration.
In the end, at the Politburo’s insistence, Soyuz-1 was launched in the early hours of 23 April 1967 with just Komarov on board. In the original plan, he was to link up with Soyuz-2, and would have been joined for the return trip by one of the three Cosmonauts that mission was to be carrying. Problems began for Komarov almost immediately the craft entered orbit. A solar panel failed to unfold, leaving the spaceship short of power. As more and more defects showed up, it was decided to abandon the mission. Soyuz-2 had already been grounded by technical problems which prevented its launch. Incredibly, Komarov managed to cope with all of the difficulties he faced; until the final two.
Firstly, the descent parachute failed to open properly, which meant that when it should have been slowing down for landing the spacecraft continued hurtling to Earth at a speed of around 140km per hour. Perhaps because of this the retro-rockets failed to fire; presumably they had been programmed to fire at a certain time after the parachute opened. Not only did Soyuz-1 smash into the ground at this great speed, but after the impact which smashed the capsule and presumably immediately killed Komarov, the retro-rockets fired and burnt to a cinder much of what was left, including Komarov’s body. His charred remains are a ghastly sight.