Hong Kong resident and Japanese entrepreneur Daisuke Enomoto (Dice-K) is planning to be the next private space explorer on a mission to the International Space Station in October 2006, according to Space Adventures.
Dice-K has already begun cosmonaut training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, and commented: "I am proud to be the first private citizen from Japan to begin training for an orbital spaceflight. I hope that by my interest in space exploration many others will be encouraged to learn more about the mysteries of the black sky. For the past 30 years, I have dreamt of seeing our Mother Earth from space."
Dice-K is a 34-year-old, Japanese national living and working in the Pacific Rim (USA, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan) for the last 15 years. He was the executive vice president, chief strategic officer and member of the board of Livedoor, a publicly traded company in the IT industry.
He will be the second Japanese space explorer to fly on a Russian mission, following the Japanese TV journalist Toyohiro Akiyama, whose company paid the fare for a trip the Mir space station on 2 December 1990 aboard Soyuz TM-11.
Akiyama, who was the first Japanese in space, flew with two Soviet cosmonauts and, with two already on Mir and seven astronauts launched the same day on the Space Shuttle STS-35, a record 12 people were in space at the same time.
British born Michael Foale had to become an American citizen in order to realise his dream of working as an astronaut. He was commander of the eighth mission to the ISS in October 2003 and is pictured here (left) alongside ESA's Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque who flew on the same flight NASA/Bill Ingalls
UK government urged to reconsider manned space flight
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) has recommended that the UK government should fund a national astronaut team to join the European Space Agency astronaut corps, many of whom have already flown Space Shuttle and Soyuz missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
Two British-born, US citizen NASA astronauts, Mike Foale and Piers Sellars, have made space flights, Foale on Mir and the ISS, with Sellars on the next Space Shuttle crew, flying his second mission, in May 2006 at the earliest.
Helen Sharman became the first Briton in space in May 1991 aboard a Soyuz craft to the Mir space station, as part of a disorganised, under-funded flight with no government support and with little celebration in the UK. Sharman is a forgotten person in space terms.
RAF squadron leader Nigel Wood and Navy commander Peter Longhurst were in line for Space Shuttle flights in 1986 with two Skynet 4 satellites but the missions were cancelled after the Challenger accident.
The RAS says: "It is hard to conceive that the UK, one of the world's leading economies, would stand aside from such a global scientific and technological endeavour. We, therefore, regard it as timely for Her Majesty's Government to re-evaluate its long-standing opposition to British involvement in human space exploration."
A UK government investment of around £150 million a year for 20 to 25 years would make a significant contribution to human space exploration, according to the RAS.
Of course, it is probable that by the time an official British astronaut flies, some British space tourists will have already won their astronauts wings.
Argentina's cosmonaut in-waiting
by Thomas Gangale
The Ad Astra project began in 1994 and aimed at launching the first Argentine citizen into space. Although it was a cooperative effort of the Argentine Republic and the Russian Federation, at its centre was a remarkable young man who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps, and crossed an ocean and a hemisphere in pursuit of his dream of flying in space. In December 1992, at the age of 21, Pablo Flores moved from his native Mendoza, Argentina, to Moscow, Russia, to work on his dream, with very little money or knowledge of the Russian language. The Soviet Union had disintegrated only one year earlier and the outward signs were that the culture had changed little. Muscovites had only begun to discover their liberty.
Flores worked hard to become fluent in Russian and entered the Moscow Aviation and Technology Institute (MATI). Over the next few years he initiated an international project to launch himself into space, assembling his own consortium of governmental and private funding sources.
"I was the first foreigner to be admitted in an aerospace career in the Soviet Union," he said. "Such was the prohibition until December 1992 — the same month of my arrival. I was officially admitted some months later in 1993 with the help of the Argentine ambassador in Moscow, Dr Juan Carlos Olima. I began my freshman year in 1994, after a year of Russian language training."
In 1994, Ambassador Olima sent a delegation to the MATI to express Argentina's support for Flores. MATI director Boris Mitin suggested that Flores' studies could be run in parallel with a cosmonaut training course. However, Flores did not have the $1 million to pay for cosmonaut training. Mitin devised a plan to facilitate Flores' training in Zvezdniy Gorodok (Star City, which was under the control of the Russian Air Force) for a few months without officially entering him in the programme. Flores trained at both Star City and at the Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP) on Friday evenings and Saturdays when the facilities were closed.
Flores explained: "Also in 1994 a Commission for International Cooperation from the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs arrived, and among other things, they verified that I had been admitted, for I had previously written a letter to the Argentine President Carlos Menem asking for money to fund my studies. From 1994 to 1998 I received a scholarship from the Organization of Ibero-American States through the Ministry of Education of Argentina ($800 US per month) to pursue the study of aerospace sciences."
In 1995, with the help of members of the diplomatic corps, Flores wrote a proposal for an international agreement on the Use and Application of the Flag of the United Nations on the Astronauts' Suits, Space Objects, and on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.
Flores completed engineer cosmonaut training in 1996. He speculates that some people in the MATI, IBMP, Russian Space Corporation (RSC) Energia, and Star City were investing their time in him for free because they viewed him as a pilot project for future profit-making ventures in training foreign cosmonauts. Official assistance appeared through other contacts such as cosmonaut Vitaly Sevastyanov (Soyuz 9, 1970; Soyuz 18/Salyut4, 1975), then a member of the Duma, whom Flores met in the Chamber of Deputies in Moscow. Sevastyanov put Flores in touch with RSC Energia, the company that had responsibility for Mir and the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS).
"I was given the training and studies. Now, to make the training official, I had to pay $1 million or gain the support of Argentina."
Because of mounting economic problems in Argentina in 1998, Flores' scholarship money was delayed that year. He defended his thesis while taking the risk that no diploma and documentation would be issued until he paid the required fees. The MATI
In spite of these obstructions, the Argentine Chamber of Deputies approved project Ad Astra in 1998, and the Senate approved the project the following year, authorising about $20 million to take Argentine experiments and activities to Mir aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. However, as the Argentine government's financial problems worsened, the additional political support necessary to move the project forward was not forthcoming, and the project unravelled
"We arrived at a point where no additional money was needed — just political support -and the Russians could take me up," said Flores.
The RSC Energia director of Mir and ISS operations wrote in October 1999 to assure Argentine officials that Flores needed only four or five months from his return to Moscow to prepare for a mission to Mir, which could be scheduled for some time in the first half of 2000. As events played out was the last planned scientific mission to Mir.
However, as the space station aged an: the ISS took shape, political momentum in Russia (with prompting from the United States) gathered for ending the Mir programme and focusing solely on the ISS Meanwhile, the Argentine government dithered and the opportunity to launch Ad Astra passed.
In place of the Russian/Argentine Ad Astra mission, the all-Russian crew of Sergey Zalyotin and Aleksandr Kaleri was launched on 4 April 2000 aboard Soyuz TM-30. The last crew to inhabit Mir returned to Earth on 16 June 2000.
Falling to Earth
By November 2000 the decision to deorbit Mir was at hand. The Korolev control centre lost contact with Mir on 25 December and managed to restore communications 19 hours later. Even after restoring contact, the centre continued to experience problems receiving telemetry from the spacecraft. On 5 January 2001, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed the decree to deorbit Mir and on 23 March 2001, the Progress M1-5 re-supply vehicle docked to Mir fired its main engine to deorbit the station.
Still Flores did not give up on his dream. While working in Argentina to develop a Latin American Mars rover project, he kept up his contacts in the Russian space programme. On 4 October 2001, cosmonaut Valery Ryumin (Soyuz 25, 1977; Soyuz 32/ Salyut 6/Soyuz 34, 1979; Soyuz 35/Salyut 6/ Soyuz 37, 1980; STS-91, 1998), ISS programme director at RSC Energia, extended a second invitation to the Argentine government.
"With the present letter we want to inform you about our wish and readiness to include the Argentine citizen Pablo Flores as member of the Russian crew for a flight to the International Space Station as a research cosmonaut," it said.
"The expedition is approximately estimated for May 2003. With this official invitation, we sincerely hope that this proposal will find support from you and that this letter will serve as a starting point for further talks."
Two months later, the Argentine government defaulted on its debts to the International Monetary Fund, other multilateral financial institutions, and domestic creditors. The Argentine economy quickly crashed as the peso lost 70 percent of its value and five presidential administrations rose and fell. With the country descending into chaos and more than half of its citizens being driven below the poverty level, there was little hope of a space mission.
"Some months earlier I had received the support of the first private company (NEC), which paid me a sponsorship, but that was not enough to finance the entire mission. They also could not renew the sponsorship contract because of the economic crisis. The Ad Astra project was definitively over."
Despite his years in Russia and his bitter disappointment over how his native land's difficulties brought down his dream of flying a space mission, Flores remains a proud Argentine.
"I could have gotten Russian citizenship and my way to Mir would have been easier. But I did not feel and do not feel I am a Russian. I did not want to fly just to be a star for a moment. I wanted to do some useful things for Argentine youth, such as inspiring them to pursue their dreams through efforts and education."
Flores returned to Moscow in 2002 to finalise the paperwork on his education. His Bachelor's in aerospace engineering became official in 2003. The following year he was awarded a Master's in strategic management, despite not being able to pay the final fees.
If the funding for a mission could be put together, Flores could be ready to go with a few months' notice. The dream that Flores had at the age of 21 is a lot older today, but it is still alive.
Flores remains in Moscow and is currently an officer of OPS-Alaska, a research company based in Petaluma, California. He serves as the Director of Operations for the Russian Federation and Latin America.
Ad Astra mission insignia Around the rim of the design are the names of the project and its destination, the colours of the Argentine and Russian flags, the red vector of the Russian Space Agency and the Sol de Mayo of Argentina. In the centre background is a black silhouette of Mir, symbolising not only the destination of the mission but the passing of that space station into history. In the centre foreground is the insignia of the United Nations, symbolising Flores' 1995 proposal for an international agreement to have the UN flag used on all space missions. Ad Astra was very much the product of one man's ambition, but it was also his aspiration that one day humans would travel in space, not as citizens of nation states, but as representatives of a united humanity.
The Ad Astra project was cancelled before a mission insignia was designed. The ex post facto insignia shown here was designed by the author in March 2005 to commemorate Flores' dream. Flores has approved the design, which, given that he was the project manager of Ad Astra as well as a crewmember, makes the design as official as other retroactive mission insignia such as all Mercury flights, the first two Gemini flights (the first crew insignia was flown on Gemini 5), and all non-international Soviet missions.
Around the rim of the design are the names of the project and its destination, the colours of the Argentine and Russian flags, the red vector of the Russian Space Agency and the Sol de Mayo of Argentina. In the centre background is a black silhouette of Mir, symbolising not only the destination of the mission but the passing of that space station into history. In the centre foreground is the insignia of the United Nations, symbolising Flores' 1995 proposal for an international agreement to have the UN flag used on all space missions. Ad Astra was very much the product of one man's ambition, but it was also his aspiration that one day humans would travel in space, not as citizens of nation states, but as representatives of a united humanity.
Irina Solovyeva (left) and Valentina Tereshkova in military uniform at the time of their selection for the cosmonaut team in March 1962.
On a warm Sunday morning in June 1963, while the United States slept and Western Europe was waking, at the Baikonour cosmodrome two young Soviet cosmonauts were being prepared to take a place in history. After passing thorough medical checks and receiving final technical briefings and words of encouragement from colleagues, they were helped to dress in identical orange spacesuits. They said their farewells to friends, engineers and doctors, and then boarded an ordinary looking tourist bus and were taken on the 15 minute drive to the nearby launch pad.
When the bus reached the pad where the Vostok craft waited atop it's carrier rocket, the two cosmonauts stood up and embraced silently, 'clinking' their white space helmets. Then the prime cosmonaut left the bus and the back-up, who now knew they would not be going into space today, resumed their seat. After another round of farewells and good wishes, the prime cosmonaut slowly climbed the flight of stairs leading to the elevator, which would take them to the top of the gantry. The spectators at the foot of the rocket craned their necks as the cosmonaut gave a final wave from the top, 104 feet above the ground. Moments later they were being strapped into the custom built ejection seat within the Vostok craft, and shortly thereafter the hatch was sealed, and they settled down for the lengthy countdown.
Nearly two hours later, the back-up cosmonaut, now dressed in a blue tracksuit, stood with other spectators on a wooden grandstand looking anxiously through binoculars at the launch pad and rocket, over two miles away. Through loudspeakers, they could hear the radio exchanges between the command bunker and the cosmonaut on top of the rocket, waiting patiently but nervously for the launch.
Eventually, just before 1430 local time (1230 in Moscow), the launch command was given and seconds later the rocket burst into life and slowly inched its way off the pad and climbed into the largely clear blue sky. Within a couple of minutes, the back-up cosmonaut saw the four strap-on boosters, now spent, fall away from the rocket. Moments later their friend's launch vehicle was out of sight. They now waited for several tense minutes until the announcement came over the loudspeakers that the Vostok craft had successfully reached Earth orbit and the cosmonaut was feeling fine.
|The first three women to be chosen, Tereshkova, Tatyana Kuznetsova, and Solovyeva appear to be examining photographic equipment, during an early training session in 1962.|
A natural wave of relief, pride and celebration flowed around the viewing grandstand. The Soviet Unions sixth successful manned space launch in six attempts, would give them another great propaganda victory, another prestigious space first — for the two cosmonauts who had travelled together to the launch pad were not fighter pilots, like the Soviet Union's first five cosmonauts, nor were they test pilots, like America's astronauts. Both had a background in parachute jumping, which was the particular skill which had brought them to the cosmonaut team, but most significantly, both were women!
Watching from the ground the back-up cosmonaut, Jr Lt Irina Solovyeva was just 25 and, as captain of the Soviet Union's national sky diving team, was arguably the country's top female parachutist. However, on this occasion, she had to take second place because her rival, 26-year-old Jr Lt Valentina Tereshkova, was now safely in orbit and assured of a place in history as the first woman in space.
Within hours, Tereshkova was the most famous woman in the world. In contrast, Solovyeva remained anonymous and unknown to anyone outside the Soviet space programme. The world's press went wild, believing the Soviet's boasts that the flight was evidence of the superiority of both their technology and political system. When she returned three days later, Tereshkova was feted like no other woman in modern Soviet history.
Yet, despite the significance of the Vostok 6 flight, and the subsequent biographies of Tereshkova herself, very little truly detailed information about the female cosmonaut team, their selection, training, and the flight itself surfaced for many years.
Valentine Tereshkova enters the centrifuge cabin for a training run. Like the early male cosmonauts, the women were tested up to a demanding 10 g.
However, in recent times, fragments of information have started to appear, and it has been possible to piece these together to give a fairly full picture of how the flight of Vostok 6 came about and how Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space.
The principle sources for the account which follows are the diaries of General Nikolai Kamanin, Head of the Cosmonaut Team from 1960 to 1971, published in 1994, and a little known book — Open Oceans, written by Tereshkova soon after the flight in 1964 — which gives a remarkably candid (for the time) account of her flight. Much of the detailed content within this book does not appear to have been published in the West before. In addition, the advent of the internet has given access to many interviews with other cosmonauts or witnesses to these remarkable events.
So, what follows is, without doubt, the single most detailed account of the events leading up to the historic flight of the first woman to fly in space.
|Tereshkova adjusts her helmet prior to a fight in the back seat of a training aircraft, probably a MIG-15.|
There was little evidence in America to support his assertion. Record breaking pilot Jerrie Cobb and a few others had been trying to persuade NASA to accept women pilots as astronauts for some time, to little effect, but Kamanin used what little leverage this gave him to promote his idea. He began lobbying for the creation of a small female group and only two months later it was approved as part of a wider plan to extend the overall cosmonaut team.
The following are extracts from his diary, covering the selection process:
25 December 1961
"The day before yesterday it was reported to me that Presidium of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union completely approved our proposal about the selection of 60 new cosmonauts, including five women. This is my great personal victory. It required nearly six months (sic) for me, to convince Korolyov, Keldysh, Vershinin, Malinovskiy and many others of the need to select women cosmonauts. I will do all possible to ensure that, in the second half of 1962, a Soviet woman will be in orbit around the Earth. Still better, if two of our women repeat the flights of Gagarin and Titov during 1962
The task of finding female candidates was given to DOSAAF (All-Union Voluntary Society for Assistance to the Army, Air Force and Navy), which was instructed to focus or unmarried women aged under 30, with some aviation experience, but not necessarily pilots. In the event, some candidates were married, or older than 30, reflecting the difficulties which would be encountered finding enough suitable women.
The records of hundreds of parachutists flying instructors, sports pilots, aerobatic pilots and the entire national sky-diving team were scrutinised. In addition, DOSAAF 'spotters' were sent to visit aeroclubs to identify possible candidates from local records, and interview them — presumably without giving too much away. Kamanin hoped to find 100 candidates, but by mid-January they had only 58 names to consider
In some interviews, the successful women have indicated that they were approached in late 1961, suggesting that the selection process might have started, unofficially, before approval was received.
16 January 1962
"...we will consider the files of 58 candidates identified as possible female cosmonauts and select 30-40 who we will bring to Moscow to place before the Medical Commission and for other tests."
19 January 1962
"....yesterday I considered the files of 58 female candidates. Generally disappointed and dissatisfied. Majority are not suitable for our requirements and have been rejected. Only 23 will be brought to Moscow for Medical Tests. DOSAAF did not examine their credentials correctly. I told them I needed girls who were young, courageous, physically strong and with experience of a field of aviation, who we can prepare for a space flight in no more than five or six months. The central objective of this accelerated preparation is to ensure that Americans do not beat us to place the first woman into space..."
Of the 23 women brought to Moscow, either four or five failed the initial medical, and so only 17 (or 18) went forward for further tests. Most of the candidates who remained at this stage have now been identified:
Galina Korchuganova (1935 — 2004) —
aerobatic pilot, USSR and World Champion
Valentina Ponomaryeva — Academy of Sciences technician and club pilot.
Marina Popovich (born 1931) — test pilot, wife of cosmonaut Pavel Popovich.
Rosalie Shishina (1928 — 1964), civilian test pilot at Yakolev bureau.
Marina Sokolova — instructor pilot with DOSAAF.
Ludmilla Solovyeva — sports pilot with DOSAAF.
Yefremova — nothing known.
Borzenkova — nothing known.
Valentina Daritcheva — nothing known.
Svetlana Ivleva — nothing known.
Tatyana Kuznetsova — put forward as a member of USSR parachuting team.
Vera Kvasova — club parachutist
Natalya Maslova — put forward as a member of USSR Parachuting team.
Irina Solovyeva — put forward as a member of USSR Parachuting team.
Valentina Tereshkova — club parachutist.
Zhanna Yorkina — club parachutist.
The pace with which the process moved forward demonstrates the pressure Kamanin was under to complete the selection process quickly, as this diary entry illustrates.
22 February 1962 "...nine girls from the first batch have passed the tests and we will interview them on 26th at 1400, and select four or five... it is necessary that they commence training by 1 March if we are going to be able to prepare one for a spaceflight by mid August..."
28 February 1962
"Yesterday for the first time the Commission sat for the selection of women cadet cosmonauts... we studied the papers of seven candidates and spoke with them all — Yefremova, Kvasova, Kuznetsova, Sokolova, Solovyeva, Solovyova and Tereshkova. They all successfully concluded medical tests. It is clear that from this seven it will be possible to select a maximum of three or four candidates. The most probable candidates are Kuznetsova, Solovyeva and Tereshkova. Some chance have Yefremova, Kvasova and Solovyova, least of all of chance, Sokolova. Solovyeva, Tereshkova Kuznetsova are all strong candidates, and I believe one of them will be the first Soviet woman in space, and hopefully the world's first too.
5 March 1962
"...on Saturday 3 March, Commission unanimously decided to appoint Solovyeva, Tereshkova and Kuznetsova as first female cosmonauts. Decision on Kvasova and Yefremova will be deferred until end of March when second group have been examined. From this group, Borzenkova and Yorkina are most noteworthy candidates."
Interestingly, there is no mention of Ponomaryeva at this stage in the process. There is no specific diary entry covering the selection of Ponomaryeva and Yorkina, although they reported for duty on 12 April. There was some reluctance to select Ponomaryeva as she was married and had a young child, but Keldysh, her 'sponsor', persuaded the rest of the Commission to accept her.
The successful candidates therefore were: Tatyana Dmitriyevna Kuznetsova (20), Valentina Leonidovna Ponomaryeva (28), Irina Bayanovna Solovyeva, (24), Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (24), and Zhanna Dmitriyevna Yorkina (22).
At that time, Kamanin envisaged that the first joint Vostok flight involving two male cosmonauts would take place in the spring of 1962 and that the next flight(s), in the late summer, would involve one or more of the women. This placed the five on a highly pressurised training and preparation schedule.
Valentina Ponomaryeva, the oldest member of the female group, the best qualified academically and the only pilot, inside the Vostok training capsule.
Little precise information about their training has been published, other than it was similar to the male cosmonauts. This would have involved centrifuge to 10 g's, isolation, altitude chambers, plus parachuting, survival, and general fitness and stamina building work.
Some weightlessness training was provided by flights in small two seat fighter trainers, but this would not be comparable to later training methods involving large transport aircraft and more sustained periods of weightlessness.
Theoretical studies of rocketry, orbital and flight dynamics were also covered but the sequence and priorities of the training programme have never been published.
In May 1962, Kamanin and cosmonaut Gherman Titov visited the USA on a goodwill visit. They met various astronauts and NASA officials and, during a barbecue party attended by the Soviet delegation at John Glenn's home, Glenn told Kamanin that it was possible that an American woman might make a three orbit space flight before the end of the year. This set Kamanin scurrying back to the mission planners, telling them that it was imperative that a female cosmonaut was in orbit by late summer.
That June, Kamanin personally approached the Alekseyev Plant 918 (forerunner of the present NPO Zvezda) to hasten the manufacture of the bespoke spacesuits for the women, even taking their measurements with him. But he was told that, in the absence of instructions from Moscow, there was no way the suits would be ready before the end of the year.
By this time the joint flights of what became Vostoks 3 & 4 were now slipping into the summer, and would eventually fly in early August 1962.
It is often reported that the five women attended the Vostok 3 & 4 launches, but this is now known to be incorrect. However, they were taken to the cosmodrome for the first time later that month to witness the launch of a Venera probe. Kamanin felt that they needed to visit the cosmodrome to become acquainted with the atmosphere there, and to see the launch of the type of rocket which they were being trained to ride, to meet the spacecraft engineers and to see a live launch.
Ironically, although the launch was successful and Kamanin was happy that the main objectives had been achieved, the fourth stage of the modified R7 booster failed, preventing the intended Venus probe from leaving Earth orbit.
While at the cosmodrome, Kamanin met informally with other programme officials to seek views on when the first woman should go into space. He still hoped to be ready for a launch before the end of October, but acknowledged it would be unlikely the women would be ready by then, and there were still problems getting the spacesuits, so March or April 1963 was becoming more realistic. The threat of an American woman upstaging his team seemed to be receding, and his plans to complete training by mid summer had clearly been over optimistic.
This lack of co-ordination and focus on specific objectives is typical of the Soviet programme at this time, although this was not apparent to the rest of the world, which saw the series of daring 'firsts' as indicative of an all-conquering and brilliantly organised regime.
In his informal assessment of the women in late summer 1962, Kamanin rated Tereshkova, Solovyeva and Ponomaryeva
Tereshkova inside the Vostok ground training capsule.RIA Novosti
In November 1962, the four remaining women took their final examinations. All achieved excellent results, with Ponomaryeva scoring highest overall. They were now all considered fully qualified cosmonauts and were commissioned as Junior Lieutenants in the Soviet Air Force, having previously held the rank of Privates.
Despite the results, Kamanin still favoured Tereshkova to make the first space flight — she was appropriately feminine and charming, whilst Ponomaryeva displayed 'unsteady morals' of swearing, smoking and leaving the base without permission! Solovyeva was assessed as being the toughest, physically and emotionally, but was also more solitary and not a good team player. In late November, Kamanin recorded these thoughts in his diary
29 November 1962
"...on the first flight into space, we must send Tereshkova. Her understudy will be Solovyeva, and cosmonaut number 3 -Ponomaryeva or Yorkina? We will decide in the future. Tereshkova is Gagarin in a skirt, whereas Solovyeva by her nature, is very close to the nature of Nikolayev. After examinations I congratulated the girls on their outstanding completion of the course of instruction. They all expressed agreement to their enrollment as officers. From 30 November through 10 January 1963 they will be on the leave. Three will go to the health resort and Solovyeva asked permission to conduct leave in the Urals — in her native town. I said to them that when they return, we will prepare all four for flight, and will only finally determine two to three days prior to launch who will fly first."
Preparations for flight
By the time the women returned in mid-January, the planning process for the next flight was in full swing, but there was still uncertainty around exactly what the flight programme would entail and how many cosmonauts would be involved.
At a meeting on 11 January 1963, the planners studied three possible variants for the next Vostok flights, provisionally scheduled for March, each involving the female team:
• A solo launch of a single female cosmonaut on a flight lasting two to three days.
• Dual launches, each carrying female cosmonauts and launched one day apart, but landing on the same day.
• A 'ridiculous' option involving the launch of a female cosmonaut for a three day solo flight and two days after her landing a flight by a male cosmonaut on a five to seven day flight.
Kamanin favoured the second option and persuaded his colleagues to support this plan, as it was essentially the same a Vostoks 3 & 4, so easier to prepare and carry out.
Returning from their leave, the four women were designated as Training Group 1, and began final training for the launches
|Tatyana Kuznetsova during training for emergency splashdown recovery, summer 1962.|
On 8 March 1963, Kamanin's plans for dual female flights were challenged by other programme leaders. They now wanted to launch one of the women in Vostok craft 007 (as Vostok 5) with the Vostok craft 008 held as a reserve. If Vostok 5 was successful, craft 008 would not be used and would be sent to a museum. If Vostok 5 failed to put the first woman into space. Vostok craft 008 could be used for a second attempt.
Launch was rescheduled for April because the two spacecraft, which had been built for many months, would reach the end of their storage life by May-June 1963 so any flights had to take place by then.
On 21 March 1963 flight plans were considered and amended at a meeting of the Presidium of the Communist Party. It was finally decided that there would be just two manned flights in the whole of 1963. using the only two existing spacecraft. These were again rescheduled for early June and consisted of joint male/female flights.
The man would launch first, and be followed five days later by the woman, landing together, after eight and three day flights respectively.
During April, training and final preparations gathered pace. Each of the women undertook a three day simulated flight in the Vostok simulator — all completed this test, although Yorkina was very weak at the end and fainted. It transpires she only ate one third of her rations and removed her boots during the first day. This effectively eliminated her from running for the Vostok 6 assignment.
On 10 May, the State Commission met to consider the crew assignments for the forthcoming Vostok flights. Valery Bykovsky and back-up Boris Volynov were nominated for Vostok 5 but the crewing of the female flight proved more difficult.
Most of the technical instructors and Kamanin himself supported Tereshkova, but there was a strong lobby in favour of Ponomaryeva, led by Keldysh, who was effectively her boss at the Academy of Sciences.
Gagarin had a vote, but was uncommitted. Keldysh and his allies tried to get him to join their ranks, but Gagarin tired of the lobbying and threw his weight behind the Tereshkova camp.
Tatyana Kuznetsova (left) and Zhanna Yorkina soon after selection in 1962. Kuznetsova, at 20, remains the youngest person ever chosen to train as a cosmonaut or astronaut.
This was decisive and the Commission thereby selected 26-year-old Jr Lt Valentina Tereshkova to be the first woman in space. Irina Solovyeva was to be her back-up, and Valentina Ponomaryeva the second back-up. The selection of two back-ups almost certainly reflected a concern that one of the womens' menstrual cycles could eliminate them at the last moment.
At this point the selections were not conveyed to the cosmonauts, who were subject to completion of some final parachute training and medical checks. On 14 May, Tereshkova and Solovyeva return from the parachute sessions, where they had completed seven jumps of varying degrees of difficulty. Kamanin happened to meet Tereshkova. She was visibly very happy and Kamanin suspected that someone has already told her she has been selected as prime crew for the Vostok 6 flight.
A week later, on 21 May, the State Commission meet again to reaffirm the selections and convey the decisions to the cosmonauts. The women cosmonauts, dressed in their Air Force uniforms, and waited to be called to meet the Commission. Tereshkova was summoned first and interviewed by the members before the Chairman told her that she had been selected to undertake the Vostok 6 flight.
Valentina confirmed her acceptance of the assignment and assured everyone that she would do her best to complete the flight. She was told that launch date was dependent on the Vostok 5 mission, but that she should prepare herself to be launched on approximately 7 June — in just 17 days time.
The other two were given the news of their roles. Whilst the decisions were not unexpected, Ponomaryeva was very disappointed and allowed it to show. But both were assured by Korolyov that further flights involving female cosmonauts would follow and they would both fly in space in time.
Tereshkova, however, was delighted that after months of intensive training and preparations — and the competitive pressures within the team — she had been chosen to fly. Her mood was one of happiness and excitement, and she showed no fears or worry over what lay ahead.
The following days were spent on light training and briefings, whilst Kamanin and his colleagues made plans for the departure to the cosmodrome. There was much debate about when they should leave, how many people from the cosmonauts' support team were required, and whether they should all travel on one plane.
These disputes were overshadowed on 28 May when tragedy hit the team. Nikolai Nikitin, chief parachute instructor to the cosmonaut team and one of Tereshkova's staunchest supporters, was killed in a parachute accident.
This delayed departure until after Nikitin's funeral, whilst Kamanin, who had already gone to the cosmodrome, was worried that the death of a close member of the team would affect the womens' nerves. However, the plans rolled on. They attended the funeral on 30 May and on 1 June all flew on an Antonov AN-10 to the Tyuratum cosmodrome to begin final preparations for Tereshkova's launch.
Part two of this article will appear in the February 2006 issue of Spaceflight.
Cosmonauts Vladimir Dzhanibekov and Yuri Romanenko with Michael Marlow.
Several cosmonauts were also first time guests — Valery Kubasov (Soyuz 6, 19 and 36), Vladimir Dzhanibekov (Soyuz 27, 39, T6 and T-12) and Yuri Romanenko (Soyuz 26, 38 and TM-2), who has twice held the record for long duration space flights — 96 days on Salyut 6 and 326 days on Mir.
Each of the space guests gave presentations, followed by question and answer sessions, which gave interesting insights to their lives and exploits.
Kubasov, who flew on the joint US/Soviet Apollo/Soyuz mission gave a rueful smile when challenged whether the handshake between Leonov and Stafford took place over England (as reported by the British press), and admitted that the original timetable had the ceremony over Russia but that their historic linkup was ahead of schedule. As an engineer, he recalled working under the gifted chief designer Korolov who, although he imposed a rigorous regime in his bureau, nevertheless treated his staff fairly.
Dzhanibekov spoke of early ambitions to fly in space and how he abandoned his physics course at university to enlist in the air force to achieve his goal. He also recalled the difficulties he and fellow cosmonaut Savinykh encountered when they reactivated and repaired the dead Salyut 7 space station in 1985.
Richard Gordon outlined the main objectives of the Gemini programme and its relationship to the Apollo Moon mission. He noted that Gemini flight experience was a prime factor in the choice of the command module pilot who was to fly solo in the early Apollo missions (nine through 12).
Charles Duke mentioned that he was entitled to claim expenses to the Moon, though the food and lodging allowance was deducted torn the total. His original request for a travel claim of five cents per mile was rejected as it was pointed that the transportation had also been provided.
Buzz Aldrin commented that the experience of the Apollo astronauts was now providing input to the design of the new space vehicles for NASA's current plans to return to the Moon
In response to a query on how he convinces sceptics on the validity of the Moon landings, he said that in the prevailing competitive atmosphere of the 1960s, the US and the Soviets were closely watching each other and, if the US had faked the missions, the Soviets would have cried foul and immediately exploited the situation. Unless, he added with a grin, they too were part of the conspiracy.
The day offered an excellent opportunity to meet these men and listen first hand to their pioneering missions; it was living history at its best.