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A Year in Space
by George A. Spiteri
This is a day-by-day account of the odyssey of Cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov, the first human beings to spend an entire year in earth orbit aboard the Soviet Mir space station.
Thursday December 10th 1987
The two crews (prime and back up) left Moscow for the Baikonur Cosmodrome with approximately ten days to go to launch. 40-year-old veteran Vladimir Titov who hoped it would be third time lucky on this flight led the prime crew. On his first flight in 1983 he failed to dock to Salyut 7. Later that year, his launch was aborted when the rocket caught fire and he escaped with his life. It is no surprise that he has been characterised as having exclusive powers of self-control and nerves of steel.
The Flight Engineer was 36-year-old ‘rookie" Musa Manarov from Azerbaijan, (the first non-Slavic Soviet in space). He had previously worked at Moscow Mission Control.
The third member of the crew was 46-year-old Anatoli Levchenko from the Ukraine also on his first space flight. He was a top test pilot and would only be staying in space for one week returning to conduct tests for the upcoming Soviet shuttle .
The back-up crew consisted of Alexander Volkov, Alexander Kaleri and Alexander Shohukin.
Saturday December 19th 1987
At dawn in Baikonur the rocket was rolled out on to the launch pad and final intensive preparations for Monday’s launch (due at 11:18 GMT) were in full swing.
Sunday December 20th 1987
Today the crew was officially chosen. Meanwhile, Yuri Romanenko, already in space, said that he was looking forward to meeting the new crew. His crewmate, Alexander Alexandrov, said that he wished the newcomers a fine stay on the "warm, well-lit house in orbit".
Monday December 21st 1987
There was extensive build-up to today’s launch of Soyuz TM 4. Soviet radio began live reports from a snow—covered Baikonur on the morning of December 21st, following closely the suiting-up of The cosmonauts and their traditional drive by bus from their crew quarters to the launch pad. The Cosmodrome was shrouded in fog but this would not prevent a take-off on time.
Reflecting the confidence of the Soviet space programme, Kerin Kerimov said before the launch "the hardware is quite reliable….that applies to the booster rocket that we use". To emphasis that this would be a long flight Yladimir Shatalov said that there would be extensive space studies for peaceful purposes over many months.
The external service of Radio Moscow began live coverage of the actual launch 3 minutes prior to blast-off which came precisely on time at 11:18 GMT. Forty-five seconds into the flight, Vladimir Titov reported that everything was normal on board. Fifteen seconds later, the first television pictures from inside the spacecraft showing the cosmonaut together with a small wooden "matryoshka’ (Russian doll) hanging in the cabin for good luck. The launch phase continued smoothly with Titov calling out at regular intervals to Moscow Mission Control that the flight warn normal. At 11:27 GMT the spacecraft was in orbit; a specialist in Mission Control described the blast-off as "perfect".
Titov and Manarov were now weightless, a state in which they would remain for a year.
Tuesday December 22nd 1987
Soyuz TM 4 was in a 298 x 260 km orbit with a period of 89.9 minutes and an inclination of 51.6°. Although it took only 9 minutes to get into orbit, it would take Titov, Manarov and Levchenko two full days to reach Mir. According to Cosmonaut Vladimir Aksyonov, it would be possible to dock to Mir at once or within 24 hours but the preferred procedure of two days would be more economical.
Aboard Soyuz TM4 things were going so well that ‘Led Zeppelin’ could be heard on the downlink. Mission Control, on waking up the crew after their first night in space, asked them how they had slept. Titov replied that all was well on board and that he had slept soundly. Manarov complained that he did not get enough sleep, spending the night in the Orbital Module. He went on to say that he had had "only 5 hours of sleep" and admitted that amount of time was not sufficient for a healthy person. Mission Control sympathised and hoped that things would improve once the crew had settled down aboard Mir.
Wednesday December 23rd 1987
At 11:04 GMT Soyuz fired its engines for 17 seconds for the fourth and final maneuver prior to docking with Mir. At 12:28 GMT Soyuz began flying around the complex to reach Kvant. This procedure took 7 minutes. Radio Moscow had live coverage of the docking, which came at 12:51 GMT when Titov exclaimed, "contact effected….full mechanical link-up of the two spacecraft effected".
At 14:20 GMT the hatches between Soyuz and Mir were opened and Titov, Manarov and Levchenko floated in to be met enthusiastically by the old-timers, Romanenko and Alexandrov. Romanenko said, "at last, all five of us are on the station". Titov’s first impressions of his new "home" were that it seemed larger then expected but all around he could see the signs of serious research having taken place. Manarov said, "Romanenko and Alexandrov are looking their best". Thus began the first proper change of shift in space making Mir a truly permanent space complex.
Thursday December 24th 1987
Today Radio Moscow publicly announced That Titov, and Manarov would attempt a yearlong flight. In Mission Control Viktor Blagov said that it would be "a small step to a manned flight to Mars". It was also revealed that a doctor would be sent up later in the flight to examine them.
Concerning the present shift change, Alexei Leonov said that for the first time ever joint work is to be carried out by a crew completing a space mission and the one that has just arrived. Previously the crew spent time mothballing the station and another crew was launched into orbit. Mir is permanent and does not need to be vacated. According to Leonov the advantages of this are that the old crew do not need to provide an inventory for the new crew as everything can be explained word-of-mouth.
Aboard Mir the three new boys were quickly joining the pace of life in the space station. Medical research was prominent today. The day ended with the five cosmonauts sending New Year’s greetings to the people of the world.
Friday December 25th 1987
Today was a routine day in orbit but on the ground it was publicly announced that the Soviet-Bulgarian crew due to be launched on 21st June, 1988 would consist of Anatoli Solovyov, Viktor Savinkh and Bulgarian, Alexander Alexandrov. These three would be the first visitors for Titov and Manarov during their long flight.
Saturday December 26th 1987
Yuri Romanenko and Alexander Alexandrov have been showing Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov around the complex, introducing them to the equipment especially the Kvant module. The majority of today’s work was taken up with astrophysical studies and the transferring of equipment to Soyuz TM 3, preparatory to its landing.
Sunday December 27th 1987
Today the five cosmonauts did astrophysical and biological experiments and made observations of the earth’s resources. A special apparatus was used to obtain protein crystals in zero gravity.
Monday December 28th 1987
Today there was a thorough check of the systems of the two Soyuz transport craft.
Tuesday December 29th 1987
Romanenko, Alexandrov and Levchenko said their farewells to Titov and Manarov. Soyuz TM 3 undocked from Mir at 05:55 GMT and the Descent Module landed near Arkalyk at 09:16 GMT on the snow-swept steppes. Most attention centered around Yuri Romanenko who had spent a record 326 days in space. Romanenko said on landing that he felt well and could not get used to the idea of coming home and carried on working right up to the last minute.
Wednesday December 30th 1987
This was Titov and Manarov’s first full day alone in orbit. Their main task today was to don spacesuits and float into Soyuz TM 4, undock from Mir which they promptly did at 09:10 GMT, wait for Mir to rotate 180° and then re-docked 19 minutes later at the front docking unit of the space station, leaving the rear docking unit vacant for future Progress cargo craft.
The world’s attention was focused on the Baikonur Cosmodrome and Yuri Romanenko. It was revealed at a press conference that Romanenko was recovering well from his long space flight.
Thursday December 31st 1987
Moscow Mission Control began receiving numerous telegrams to Vladimir Titov who was due to celebrate his 41st birthday tomorrow. There were greetings of good health and courage from the people on the ground.
Mir first flew into 1988 at 11:57 GMT whilst over New Zealand. Later, at 21:00 GMT (midnight in Moscow) the space complex was over The Cape of Good Hope.
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