Choosing the crew

Crew selection was a long process. At first Yuri Gagarin himself was to have commanded, but Kamanin was unwilling to risk a national hero on such a dangerous mission and Vostok 4 backup pilot Vladimir Komarov was finally selected. For the first time, Voskhod would allow people other than trained pilots into space. All agreed that sending a doctor into orbit would have benefits, while as an incentive to his engineers, Korolev decreed that one of them would have the chance to fly in the completed capsule. In the end, the successful candidates were medical specialist Boris Yegorov and engineer Konstantin Feoktistov.

Despite an overambitious initial target of a flight by August, Voskhod launched on 12 October 1964. The mission, which lasted for just over 24 hours, went relatively smoothly and provided the Soviets


The small Vostok capsule was very cramped with three people aboard. Because the couches lay at right angles to the original ejector seat, the instruments were also hard to read.

with yet another propaganda coup. Carefully worded statements gave the impression that Voskhod was a major advance in spacecraft design, rather than the rush job that it was in reality, but the mission still provided useful insights into how a crew could work together in space. By the time America was ready to launch its first Gemini, a second Voskhod spectacular - the first spacewalk - was almost ready. Ironically, though, Korolev's great sponsor, Khrushchev, was in no position to crow about these new triumphs - even as Voskhod 1 circled the Earth, he was deposed in a coup, to be replaced by Leonid Brezhnev.


One concession to the risks of landing was the padding attached to every surface inside the copsule. However, in the event of a parachute or retro-rocket failure, it would have made little difference.


The first Voskhod crew of test pilot Vladimir Komarov (left) and civilians Boris Yegorov (centre) and Konstantin Feoktistov (right) were able to send back some dramatic views of the Earth as seen from space (above).

8 April 1964

A test launch puts an unmanned Gemini capsule into orbit, still attached to its upper rocket stage.

19 January 1965

An unmanned suborbital hop tests the capsule's performance during atmospheric re-entry.

23 March 1965

Gemini 3 carries Gus Grissom and John W. Young on three orbits around Earth.

3 June 1965

Gemini 4 launches, carrying James McDivitt and Ed White on a 62-orbit mission that includes the first American spacewalk.

7 June 1965

Gemini 4 returns safely to Earth.

21 August 1965

Gemini 5, with Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad aboard, launches.

29 August 1965

Gemini 5's safe return from a record-breaking eight-day mission establishes the practicality of a mission to the Moon and back.

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