Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1971

Soviet cosmonauts perish in reentry disaster

The three Soviet cosmonauts who served as the first crew of the world’s first space station die when their spacecraft depressurizes during reentry.

On June 6, the cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev were launched into space aboard Soyuz 11 on a mission to dock and enter Salyut 1, the Soviet space station that had been placed in orbit in April. The spacecraft successfully docked with the station, and the cosmonauts spent 23 days orbiting the earth. On June 30, they left Salyut 1 and began reentry procedures. When they fired the explosive bolts to separate the Soyuz 11 reentry capsule from another stage of the spacecraft, a critical valve was jerked open.

One hundred miles above the earth, the capsule was suddenly exposed to the nearly pressureless environment of space. As the capsule rapidly depressurized, Patsayev tried to close the valve by hand but failed. Minutes later, the cosmonauts were dead. As a result of the tragedy, the Soviet Union did not send any future crews to Salyut 1, and it was more than two years before they attempted another manned mission.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Spanish retreat from Aztec capital

Faced with an Aztec revolt against their rule, forces under the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes fight their way out of Tenochtitlan at heavy cost. Known to the Spanish as La Noche Triste, or “the Night of Sadness,” many soldiers drowned in Lake Texcoco when the vessel carrying ...read more

“Gone with the Wind” published

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, one of the best-selling novels of all time and the basis for a blockbuster 1939 movie, is published on this day in 1936. In 1926, Mitchell was forced to quit her job as a reporter at the Atlanta Journal to recover from a series of physical ...read more