Many of us have dreamt of becoming an astronaut when we grew up. Many of us didn’t achieve that dream and are still dreaming of one day traveling to space and experiencing that unique feeling of looking at Earth from the outside.
However, going to space isn’t as cool as it may look. For it can turn into a tragedy in a flash. This is what happened to three Russian astronauts 50 years ago when their trip didn’t go as planned.
This is the story of the agony of the three astronauts in the spaceship Soyuz 11 when they figured out they only had 110 seconds to die. They knew they weren’t coming back alive. So come with me as I tell you the story of Vladislav Volkov, Georgi Dobrovolski, and Viktor Patsáyev.
Landing On Earth
It happened fifty years ago when a tragedy shook the space race in the Soviet Union. Soyuz 11’s trip was to dock to the first space station in history, the Salyut 1. It departed on June 6, 1971 manned by cosmonauts Vladislav Volkov, Georgi Dobrovolski and Viktor Patsáyev. The goal was that the astronauts enter Salyut 1, inhabit it, repair whatever was needed, and reorient its instruments.
It was going to be the first experience of prolonged human life in space and returning to tell about it. The feat was taken by many as a miracle. And apparently, it needed a miracle to succeed for it didn’t go as planned.
Everything went wrong, even from the beginning. The feat it was devised for ended in disaster. When Soyuz 11 returned and landed on Earth on June 29, all three cosmonauts were dead.
Aborting The Mission
What has happened is that a leak of air had suffocated them with extraordinary speed and precision. But what actually killed them was that they weren’t wearing their spacesuits which would have saved their lives. But one of the objectives of the trip was to experiment with what would happen to astronauts who traveled into space without protection and without emergency oxygen. Who wouldn’t know, right?
The USSR, in the middle of the space race to match, and surpass, the United States, which had already put Man on the Moon, had to abort the mission, start all over again, even take pity on their mistakes.
The failure of the Soyuz 11 delayed the USSR space program by two years, forced a redesign of the project and the Soyuz spacecraft, and sentenced the Salyut 1 space station to death, which was diverted from its orbit, reoriented, and forced to fall into the sea.