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Middle Ages [it's all mine now?]

I was bought up in a small township in Eltham (Leslie Townsend Hope's also) in South London, now live in The-Garden-of-Kent aerial during the fifties Elvis was beginning to make a noise and ....in contempt of court

Thursday, November 04, 2004


After the success of Soyuz 17, the next flight was expected to double the new
Record The launching of 5 April gave landing windows of 26 May to 7 June
(for a mission of between 51 and 63 days). It may have been in their minds to
break America’s second longest record, which was then 59 days. Chosen for
Soyuz 18 were the veterans of Soyuz 12, Vasili Lazarez and Oleg Markarov.
They surely deserved a long flight after their two-day hop.
Soyuz 18 lifted off on schedule and curved over towards the northeast. The
strap-ons fell away and disappeared from sight. At 120km the time came to
drop the core stage and fire the upper section. But the explosive bolts failed to fire: the whole rocket begun to tumble violently from end to end!
Vasili Lazarez reported the problem at once, but ground control would not believe him. For some reason, telemetry did not indicate a fault. ‘Abort, abort!’
he screamed, ‘cut us free!’ Only after further pleadings and swearing was
Soyuz blasted free from the gyrating rogue rocket. Soyuz began to fall like a
Down it came and the G forces got harder and harder. It was a straight vertical descent, quite unlike a normal re-entry. Just then Lazarev, realizing
the craft was heading for China, began to ask for a predicted landing spot.
4G, 5G, 6G. Three helicopter pilots were already in a Peking jail for a number of years for landing the wrong side of the border. 8G, 9G, 10G. The cosmonauts’ flesh sunk deeper into their cheekbones. Each man now weighed a tonne. 11G, 12G, 13G. ‘We do have a treaty with China, don’t we?’
pleaded Lazarez. 15G. Radio contact was lost. 16G - past the Soyuz design
limit 17G: each cosmonaut now weighed a tonne and half. 18G: the cosmonauts blacked out and the G meter jammed, bent.
The Cosmonauts slowed down from 17,000 km/h to 200 lm/h in four minutes.
At last the G forces eased. The parachute popped out and filled. They were
heading into the remote Altai mountains, a near-desert populated only by herdsmen on horseback. The sun had just set. Their troubles were only just
After 16 minutes aloft, Soyuz 18 touched down in snow - but at once began
rolling down a steep mountainside. It bumped and jogged, and Lazarev and
Markarov were violently thrown around. It crashed and smashed over the ground, and the two men screamed as they were flung about and battered.
The capsule was heading towards a precipice.
They would certainly have died if it had plunged over into the valley, but the
parachute lines snagged and tangled in some conifer trees and thorny bushes
and, miraculously, held. The two men, bruised, bleeding and with broken bones, climbed out in the darkness. What would they do? They were badly
injured and needed help. Yet the chances were that they were in the Peoples’
Republic of China. At best they faced an uncertain future. After an hour, a group of villagers who had witnessed the drama, approached with torches
and lights. It was bitterly cold. To the enormous relief of Lazarev and Markarov, they spoke Russian. The border, however, was close.

Extract from the book “Race Into Space” by Brian Harvey
Amazon bookmark


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