June 15 – Launch of Soyuz 29

1973Kosmos 573 launched today.  It was an unmanned flight of the two-man Soyuz ferry, testing its ability to transport crews to Salyut space stations.

Fast forward five years, and by June 15th 1978 the Salyut program was in full swing. The launch of Vladimir Kovalyonok and Aleksandr Ivanchenkov onboard Soyuz 29 was to the Salyut 6, which had been put into orbit in September 1977, and became home to 11 crews in total.

Stamp showing the crew of Soyuz 29 and part of a Salyut Space Station

The first task for this crew was to get the station up and running again after a three-month period during which it had been vacant.  In orbit this involves more than just turning on the electricity and gas, and clearing up the junk mail.  It took about a week to get the atmosphere breathable, the temperature bearable, and the crew adjusted to weightlessness.


The Salyut 6 Station.

During their stay, the two-man crew of Salyut 6 became a four-man crew when they were visited by Soyuz 30, part of the “Intercosmos” program of flights involving cosmonauts from The allies of the USSR.  Soyuz 30 carried Pyotr Klimuk, the first Belarusian cosmonaut, and Mirosław Hermaszewski, the first from Poland.