Boris Valentinovich Volynov (Борис Валентинович Волынов; born December 18, 1934 in Irkutsk) is a Soviet cosmonaut who flew two space missions of the Soyuz programme: Soyuz 5, and Soyuz 21. He was the first Jewish astronaut.
He is a graduate of the Soviet Military Engineering Academy and held the rank of Colonel in the Soviet Air Force. After resigning from the space programme in 1982, he spent eight years as a senior administrator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre. After 30 years of service in Star City he retired. In June 2006 they visited the Kennedy Space Center.
Volynov was assigned as one of two possible commanders training for Voskhod 1
in 1964, but he and his fellow crewmembers Georgi Katys
and Boris Yegorov
were dumped three days before the scheduled launch date despite being the prime crew. This was due to the State Commission
discovering that Volynov's mother was Jewish; Sergey Korolyov
was reportedly furious about this decision but was told by Nikita Khrushchev
"Don't rock the boat - it's not worth it!"
Having lost his chance to fly on the first Voskhod mission, Volynov spent a year training for Voskhod 3
. He first trained with Georgi Katys, but Katys was dropped from active status when the KGB
discovered his father had been executed in one of Stalin's purges. He was then teamed up with Viktor Gorbatko
and then Georgi Shonin
, but following the death of Sergey Korolyov on 14 January 1966 the Voskhod 3 flight was cancelled just 10 days before launch. Korolyov's successor, Vasily Mishin
, cancelled the mission as he was intent on concentrating on Soyuz
instead. Volynov was subsequently transferred to the Soyuz group and later assigned as a backup for Soyuz 3
Soyuz 5 was launched on 15 January 1969, crewed by Volynov, Alexei Yeliseyev
, and Yevgeni Khrunov
. On 16 January Yeliseyev and Khrunov transferred to Soyuz 4
, crewed by Commander Vladimir Shatalov
, following an orbital rendezvous and docking. Soyuz 4 undocked from Soyuz 5 the following day and Volynov prepared for a solo re-entry.
Soyuz 5's equipment module failed to properly separate following retrofire due to the misfiring of explosive bolts, and consequently blocked the re-entry heat shield on the base of the descent module. As a result of the added mass of the equipment module, Volynov lost control of Soyuz 5 which began to tumble, finally stabilizing itself with the thinnest part of the spacecraft facing forward. As the assembly entered the atmosphere, the stress and heat on the supporting struts between the modules finally made then burn through and part allowing the equipment module to fall away and burn up on re-entry. Volynov could only wait while the descent module's automatic orientation system tried to regain control, which fortunately it managed to do with the heat shield facing forward.
Following re-entry, the module's parachutes deployed only partially, and a failure of the soft-landing retrorockets in the base of the descent module caused a hard landing which almost wrecked the module, and broke some of Volynov's teeth.
Volynov was subsequently awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union on January 22, 1969, and the Order of Lenin.
On 6 July 1976 Volynov and Flight Engineer Vitaly Zholobov
were launched on board Soyuz 21
to spend 18 days aboard the space station Salyut 5
. Following a deterioration in the health of Zholobov, who was making his first spaceflight, the decision was made to return the crew at the earliest available opportunity and they boarded their Soyuz on 24 August. However, as Volynov tried to undock from Salyut, the latch failed to release properly. As he fired the jets to move the spacecraft away, the docking mechanism jammed, resulting in the Soyuz being undocked but still linked to Salyut. As teh two spacecraft moved out of range of ground communications, only the first set of emergency procedures was received. Volynov tried a second time to undock but only managed to slightly loosen the latches. This situation persisted for an entire orbit (90 minutes), then the final set of emergency procedures were received and the latches finally disengaged.
Because Soyuz 21 was returning early it was outside the normal recovery window, and encountered strong winds as it descended, which caused uneven firing of the retrorockets. It made a hard landing around midnight 200 km southwest of Kokchetav, Kazakhstan. Zholobov's illness was apparently caused by nitric acid fumes leaking from the Salyut's propellant tanks. However, other reports indicate that the crew failed to properly follow their physical exercise program and suffered from lack of sleep.
& Colin Burgess
, In the Shadow of the Moon
, University of Nebraska Press