Saturday, March 7, 2020

Holiday on our Earth

Happy birthday Viktor Petrovich Savinykh, 80 years old today. An heroic figure in the Soviet Union, he took part in three space flights in the 1980s, and went on to become president of the Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography. During his second space mission, on Soyuz T-13 and T-14, he kept a diary, later published in Pravda. Subsequently, the US’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service published an English translation. Here is Savinykh in that diary musing philosophically towards the end of the mission: ‘I got up earlier than the other fellows for the first session. I listened to congratulatory telegrams. While the fellows were sleeping, I prepared a “Holiday Breakfast”. Today is a holiday on our Earth and that means for us as well, since we are a small part of our Homeland, which made all this equipment and entrusted it to us to work on. This is a very great trust. And a [huge] responsibility which lies on us. . .’

Savinykh was born in Berezkiny, Kirov Oblast, Russia, some 900 km ENE of Moscow, on 7 March 1940. He was educated locally in the secondary school at Tarasov, and subsequently at the Perm College of Railway Transport. After working briefly on the Sverdlovsk railway as a team leader, he joined the Soviet army in the railway troops, and then took part in the construction of the Ivdel-Ob highway. From 1963, he studied at the Optical and Mechanical Faculty of the Moscow Institute of Geodesy, Aerial Photography and Cartography Engineers (MIIGAiK - later the Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography), graduating in 1969. He then went to work at the Central Design Bureau of Experimental Engineering; and, in December 1978, he was selected for cosmonaut training. He married Lilia Alekseevna, a teacher, and they have one daughter.

Savinykh was involved with many of the Soviet space missions in the 1980s, and flew with three of them as flight engineer. His first space flight took place from March to May in 1981 on Soyuz T-4 spacecraft. His second, June-November 1985, was on Soyuz T-13, transporting personnel to the Soviet space station Salyut 7. It was a mission which proved unusually complex, and involved return on Soyuz T-14. His third flight, on Soyuz TM-5, was part of an international mission in June 1988 that docked with the Mir station. He retired from active service in 1989, and went on to teach at, be rector of and then president of, MIIGAiK. He is the author of a number of textbooks and monographs, articles on remote sensing of the Earth from space, as well as popular science books about space. He is the recipient of many awards and honours, not least being named Hero of the Soviet Union twice. Further biographical information (which largely focuses on his space achievements) is available at Wikipedia (an English translation of the Russian page has more details), Astronautix or Geodesy and Cartography.

During his second space flight, Savinykh kept a near daily diary. He had some kind of agreement with the Russian newspaper Pravda which later published the diary.
Pravda described it as the ‘compressed chronicle, a summary of the thoughts and feelings which arise in the alternation of space days and nights’. Subsequently, the article was picked up, translated and published by the US’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service in its USSR Report - Space dated 12 September 1986 - available online as a pdf. More about the mission, and the diary, can be read in Soviet Space Programs: Piloted space activities, launch vehicles, launch sites, and tracking support put out by the US Government Printing Office in 1988.

Here are some extracts from Savinykh’s flight diary.

10 June 1985
‘Today is the first time I have managed to write a few words. Inside the station it is cold, the viewports have frost on them, like windows in wintertime in the country. There is frost on the metal parts, near the hull. We sleep in the living quarters compartment of the ship in sleeping bags, it is not cold there. We work in warm overalls and down hats borrowed from home. Our feet freeze in our flight boots and so do our hands if we don’t have any gloves on. Within the station it is quiet and dark. We work in the light and at night we use lamps. Our health is good. Hope has emerged.’

11 June 1985
‘We turned on the lights at the first post and how it made a difference in living conditions. And in the evening we even warmed up some canned goods and bread and dined on a hot meal. A Holiday! Today we spent almost the entire day in the station and by evening we were quite frozen. Volodya’s feet were warmed up by the heaters which had warmed up by dinnertime. We did not look at the Earth. Again a complete overhaul, but much more complicated. The lifeless station is slowly coming back to life.

Yes, we tried a hot meal for the first time already a week after our launch.

Finally, the quietness of our “carriage” stopped being so oppressive. The first live sound we heard was the noise of the drive for the solar batteries. I stood (or more accurately, hung) opposite the 10th viewport, looking at the 4th plane. The reduction gear began to make a noise, the plane deployed and life began.

The clocks and the “Globus” began ticking and the ventilators started making a sucking noise. Without them it was recommended to us that there not be two people in the work compartment at the same time. We could exhale around ourselves such a cloud of C02 that it would then be impossible to breathe. But, in fact, it is not possible to sit in separate compartments all the time. In order not to make the ground nervous we said we were separated but, in actual fact, of course, we were working together, dispersing the clouds around ourselves, each using his own primitive method.

Our subsequent life also took shape. Exposed panels on the walls and ceiling, a huge number of hoses and cables strung out along the entire length of the station, an endless search for the needed connectors, their attachment and detachment in order to check the instruments and equipment.’

22 June 1985
‘In the morning we were supposed to take photos in accordance with the “Kursk-85” program, but once again cloudiness did not allow this. And at the next session our wives came into the Flight Control Center. We missed their voices and those of the children. For two sessions the conversation concerned matters on Earth. My daughter still has one exam left - physics. And the Graduation Ball is already scheduled for the 26th. The time had come to say goodbye to school. For me these years had sped by completely unnoticed, they had been devoted to preparations for flights...

There is one term that is closely connected with cosmonautics: psychological support. Sometimes the specialists in this field have been puzzled as to why I show such passive concern regarding the selection of artists for concert programs on board the station. And not just me alone. But we did not get together up there to harass people with our own whims in connection with favorite or disliked performers. We are grateful to everyone who comes to Ostankino to share their lively words and songs. The main support lies in how things are going. You solve the latest problem - and you are literally flying on wings.

I remember a lot of things, at times even things not very notable to another person, with gratitude. The arrival of Vladimir Kovalenko at the institute to defend my dissertation. A film with a farewell recording of the great pilot, Ivan Kozhedub, prepared before the journey by the fellows from the radio industry. A twig of absinth placed in the on-board journal by Aleksey Leonov. A professional conversation with an intelligent, precise and composed specialist who understands you. I would like to mention Stanislav Andreyevich Savchenko, the developer of many astrophysical and geophysical programs. At such a great distance he can sense with amazing accuracy how you are working with an instrument, at which star a viewport is looking and what your mood is in general. Or a conversation on sailing with the famous trainer and teacher, Sergey Mikhaylovich Voytsekhovskiy, and with world-recordholder Volodya Salnikov. We discussed with them not only the secrets of sports mastery, but also the design of possible training simulators, for example, a rowing machine, to supplement adequately and suitably our on-board equipment... The festive meetings with cosmonauts from fraternal countries -  Gurragcha , Germashevskiy, Jehn , Prunariu, Mendez. The voices of our fellows - Volodya Solovyev, Lenya Popov, Sasha Aleksandrov, Svetlana Savitskaya and all the others. You can note how the mood improves after all these things, as does productivity.’

25 June 1985
‘Yesterday we were so tired I had neither the strength nor the time to write. I hardly got out of the supply ship. We changed out the water heater, flooded it with water, thoroughly washed out all the hoses and were soon drinking tea. After our exercises we had three packets of tea with milk. What a story!

Now the station resembles a train depot: packages, sacks, assemblies, containers of food. All this stuff that arrived and such excessive quantities. It forms an obstruction. Equipment arrived for going outside - we are beginning to put the stuff up and check it.”

Regarding dreams. For some reason the most frequent and most alarming dream is a search for some kind of hose or connector. You look and look but you just can’t seem to find it...’

26 June 1985
‘I had a headache this morning. Apparently there is poor ventilation in the sleeping area since everything is heaped up in there. I took some Analgin and it went away. Today I extended the air pipe.’

27 July 1985
‘For two sessions we watched the Moscow Festival on the screen. The picture was excellent and the weather did not let us down. Two festival participants, absent for a valid reason (as they said on the television), ensured the weather.

Now it was necessary to ensure the “weather” on the station as well. And to do this it was necessary to go out into space and build up the third solar battery. The preparations for the excursion were more complicated than usual. During the check-out my suit turned out to be non-hermetic. We looked and looked and we found where it was hissing. It turned out that in weightlessness one small strap from inside had gotten into the joint for closing the knapsack. It was necessary to shorten it. Additional time was spent on all this. A note recalls: “1 August was a day off, but we spent the whole day on preparations.” Finally, my first excursion into open space.’

12 August 1985
‘A communications session was held and I watched the clock, and such is the picture I saw. My mother in a bright rural cottage and guests gathering. Today is my daughter’s birthday. Grandmother has pirogies. And our work proceeded, the day is going excellently.’

14 August 1985
‘We conducted an experiment in accordance with the line of the GKNT for the purpose of determining the pollution of the atmosphere of cities. We worked in the Zaporozhye area. Good orientators, we had previously set the gyroscopes and were accurate and then we kept it in the field of vision of all the equipment: the MKF-6, the MKS-M and the rest...’

7 November 1985
‘I got up earlier than the other fellows for the first session. I listened to congratulatory telegrams. While the fellows were sleeping, I prepared a ‘Holiday Breakfast.’ Today is a holiday on our Earth and that means for us as well, since we are a small part of our Homeland, which made all this equipment and entrusted it to us to work on. This is a very great trust. And a hugh [sic] responsibility which lies on us. . .’

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