A Year in Space
by George A. Spiteri
Thursday September 1st 1988
The five cosmonauts began their joint programme of experiments. Polyakov said that Titov and Manarov had adapted long ago to weightlessness. Mohmand brewed some Afghan tea for everyone and Lyakhov said, “There is room for everyone on the station”.
Friday September 2nd 1988
The cosmonauts took photographs of Afghanistan and in a 15 hour working day did medical and biological experiments. President Najibullah spoke to the cosmonauts from Kabul. He wished them success and told them the whole of Afghanistan was following their flight. (However the previous day 48 rockets were fired at Kabul airport leaving 5 dead and 2 injured.)
Saturday September 3rd 1988
The five cosmonauts carried out more medical and astrophysical experiments. They also gave a news conference to Soviet and Afghan journalists and called for an end to the Afghan war.
Sunday September 4th 1988
The first set of results were placed inside Soyuz TM 5.
Monday September 5th 1988
The cosmonauts performed their final joint experiments and continued to load equipment and results into Soyuz TM 5 prior to Tuesday morning’s landing. At 22:55 GMT Lyakhov and Mohmand undocked Soyuz TM 5 from Mir leaving Titov, Manarov and Polyakov to continue their flight.
Tuesday September 6th 1988
Lyakhov and Mohmand were scheduled to make a routine landing at 0:215 GMT. The announcement of the landing and “live” coverage never came from Radio Moscow and it was obvious that something was wrong. In fact, Radio Moscow remained silent until 07:00 GMT when they announced to the world the problems aboard Soyuz TM 5. According to Mission Control the landing had been postponed for 24 hours. Soyuz’s onboard systems deviated from pre-set operational parameters and “the decision was taken not to take risks, analyse the situation thoroughly and compute another re-entry trajectory”. Radio Moscow reassured its listeners that Lyakhov and Mohmand were fine and in touch with Mission Control. It even played a recording of the two cosmonauts laughing.
Lyakhov and Mohmand spent an uncomfortable 24 hours inside the cramped Soyuz Descent Module (the Orbital Module had already been jettisoned). Once the British media had realised that there was a possibility that the cosmonauts may be in some danger, words like “marooned” and “lost in space” were thrown about. It was even suggested that they had run out of food when, in fact, Lyakhov told Mission Control that he did not wish to use the emergency rations. The Soviet media did not panic although it was obvious that if the cosmonauts did not land on their next attempt then they would have been in very serious danger. To calm things down, Valery Ryumin told “Izvestia” in an interview “nothing terrible happened”.
Wednesday September 7th 1988
At 00:01 GMT the moment of truth came for Lyakhov and Mohmand when, third time lucky, they had a successful retro-fire and at 00:50 GMT Soyuz TM 5 landed near Dzhezkazgan. However, there was no live radio coverage, only live TV pictures of Mission Control were shown during the touchdown. Vladimir Solovyov said that the two cosmonauts “displayed good nerve during the incident and had the situation under control”. Lyakhov and Mohmand were later shown sitting outside their capsule being interviewed by reporters. Lyakhov said that it had been uncomfortable without proper toilet facilities but that the situation had always been under control. Mohmand said, quite simply, that these things happen on space flights. Both cosmonauts were awarded, the highest Soviet and Afghan decorations.
Thursday September 8th 1988
After the drama of the past two days Titov, Manarov and Polyakov undocked Soyuz TM 6 from Mir at 01:05 GMT and re-docked to the front of Mir at 01:25 GMT.
Friday September 9th 1988
Progress 38 was launched at 23:34 GMT towards Mir.