Soyuz 1

Vladimir KomarovThe first flight of the Soviet Union’s new manned space vehicle, Soyuz 1, lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Though designed to accomodate a crew of three – and intended to be the answer to NASA’s Apollo command/service module in the ongoing race to reach the moon – the first Soyuz is flown by test pilot (and close friend of Yuri Gagarin) Vladimir Komarov. Though early plans for the mission involve a rendezvous and docking with a second Soyuz, only one vehicle is available for the mission, and it suffers a series of technical problems. Though aware of the faults in the Soyuz design, engineers have been pressured to put a manned Soyuz in orbit for political reasons.