Soyuz 18a: “The April 5th Anomaly”

SoyuzThe two-man crew selected to become the second group of occupants for the Soviet Union’s Salyut 4 space station nearly rockets into disaster. Interstage connectors, intended to open simultaneously to allow the third stage of the booster to carry the Soyuz spacecraft into orbit, fail to open on cue, leaving the third stage dragging the dead weight of the spent second stage, changing the trajectory of the entire vehicle. The Soyuz capsule carrying cosmonauts Vasili Lazarev and Oleg Makarov is blasted free, and the two men experience acceleration of 23 Gs as the capsule roars toward a bruisingly rough emergency landing. As if that’s not bad enough, the Soyuz capsule lands perilously close to the USSR’s border with China, and rescue crews spend over 24 hours looking for the crew. The usually secretive Soviet space agency reluctantly reveals details of the mission to NASA, with whom they are collaborating ahead of the historic Apollo-Soyuz joint launch.