View Full Version : Leonov, Makarov and 1968

2002-Nov-08, 09:39 PM
How close were Oleg Makarov and Alexei Leonov to their circumlunar flight before the plug was pulled?

2002-Nov-09, 12:14 AM
Prior and up to 1968, the Russians were still ahead in the race with the first soft landing on the Moon (Luna 9, 1966), and the first man-made satellite to orbit the Moon (Luna 10, 1966). The guts were wrenched out of their program by the death of Korolev that same year. He was a dynamic character with political muscle and a strategic mind, and had directed the Soviet effort brilliantly over the preceding years. He was replaced by Vasali Mishin, who, although a good engineer, walked into a difficult position, having to deal with a multitude of different government departments and design teams jockeying for a handle on the program. Despite this, the L1 Soyuz, which was designed for the circumlunar flight, had been tested on the pad by January 1967. Fifteen were built, and of these, only two were kitted out for manned missions, supporting the idea that the Russians had originally planned on a more patient build up, with several unmanned missions, testing equipment viability for the future manned effort. Testing continued through 1967/8 with the Russians essentially accepting that the US would probably make the first manned landing, but what the heck, they could still make the first circumlunar flight. The L1 - Zond 5 became the first unmanned spacecraft to successfully circumnavigate the Moon and return to Earth in September1968, increasing optimism that a manned mission would quickly follow. Zond 6 was planned as another test flight in November, and if all went well, then a manned mission might be attempted as early as the following December. The craft carried out its circumnavigation of the Moon, but a faulty rubber gasket caused a sudden decompression, killing all the livestock aboard, Zond 6 made it to re-entry, but crash-landed due to faulty parachute deployment. Makarov and Leonov are reported to have sent a letter to the Politburo, requesting that the December attempt still be made (remarkable courage if true), but it never happened. A couple of weeks later, Apollo 8 made its historic voyage. So, in my long-winded way, I'm saying they came VERY close!!