Wednesday December 21st 1988
In the early hours of the morning Titov, Manarov and Chretien said their farewells to Volkov, Krikalev and Polyakov and transferred into Soyuz TM 6. Soyuz undocked from Mir; during this manoeuvre the cosmonauts on Mir sent live TV pictures back to earth showing the transport craft slowly moving away.
The unthinkable was to occur yet again. Prior to the landing the computer aboard Soyuz TM 6 decided that its memory programme was overloaded due to incorrect information and automatically cut off preparations for the craft’s landing. According to TASS the problem was traced to “the faulty interaction of some of the new software with the old package of programmes”. Mission Control decided to delay the return of the cosmonauts for three hours (that is, two orbits) whilst a new descent programme was sent to the computer. The landing would now be near the town of Dzhezkazgan.
To lessen the tension, Valery Ryumin, the Chief Flight Director at Mission Control was quoted in “Izvestia” as saying to the cosmonauts, “It’s nothing, boys. You flew for a year so you can wait another two orbits. Let Jean-Loup look at Paris from above one more time”.
After switching to a back-up computer programme, Soyuz re-entered the earth’s atmosphere. Radio Moscow had live coverage of the capsule landing amid applause and, no doubt, some relief in Mission Control. Soyuz hit the earth a few seconds prior to 10:00 GMT. Titov and Manarov were back on earth after their 12-month space odyssey. Television pictures later showed three smiling cosmonauts sitting down and looking fit and well surrounded by medical personnel who, after an initial on-the-spot medical check-up, pronounced the cosmonauts to be well.
There was a change to the post-landing procedure; instead of staying at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the cosmonauts were flown direct to the Space Centre near Moscow where they would undergo intensive medical examinations to see how well they had withstood their space flight. The early signs were that Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov appeared physically and psychologically fit and healthy. In fact, both expressed a desire to remain in space for a few more weeks.
With the cosmonauts safely back on earth, Presidents Gorbachev and Mitterand awarded Titov, Manarov and Chretien the highest decorations of their respective countries.
Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov’s historic space flight ended successfully after exactly a year in space. This was another important step forward in the Soviet Union’s long-term programme in their quest to send men to Mars in the next century.