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Home > NASA Space Photos > Soyuz TM Crews
Soyuz TM-5 Crew Portrait
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Soyuz TM-5 Glossy 8x10 Colour Photograph

Soyuz TM-5 Crew: Viktor Savinykh, Anatoli Solovyov and Aleksandr Aleksandrov.

(Russian photos have white borders).

Soyuz TM-5 launched on 1988 June 7 and arrived at Mir on June 9 carrying the second Bulgarian in space, Alexandrov (not to be confused with the Soviet cosmonaut of the same name). He became the first Bulgarian to reach a Soviet space station (Georgi Ivanov failed to reach Salyut 6 on Soyuz 33 in 1979—Alexandrov was his backup). Their launch had been advanced by 2 weeks late in the planning stages to improve lighting conditions for the Rozhen astronomical experiment. On September 5 cosmonauts Alexandr Lyakhov and Abdul Ahad Mohmand undocked from Mir. They jettisoned the orbital module and made ready for deorbit burn to return to Earth. However, unbeknownst to the cosmonauts or the Mission Control Center in Korolev (TsUP), the guidance computer was using the docking software of the Bulgarian Mir mission in June. The deorbit burn did not occur at the appointed time because the infrared horizon sensor could not confirm the proper attitude. Seven minutes after the scheduled time, the sensor determined that the correct attitude had been achieved. The main engine fired, but Lyakhov shut it down after 3 seconds. A second firing 3 hours later lasted only 6 seconds. Lyakhov immediately attempted to manually deorbit the craft, but the computer shut down the engine after 60 seconds.

According to James Oberg (Secrets of Soyuz), in order to restart the automatic descent program for the second burn attempt, Lyakhov had to instruct the computer to ignore the first shutdown. It was therefore running down its checklist as though the first burn had been successful and the ship was on a normal reentry trajectory. The next item on that checklist was to jettison the Equipment Module, which contained, among other things, the primary propulsion system – the very system they needed to deorbit. Mohmand, disregarding a directive to sit back and let Mission Control assess the situation, had scanned the ship’s gauges and displays, and discovered that separation was going to take place in less than a minute. Lyakhov quickly disabled the program. Had he not done so, he and Mohmand would have perished, as the Soyuz Descent Module had only enough air and battery power for a couple of hours.

The cosmonauts were forced to remain in orbit a further day in the cramped quarters of the Descent Module with minimal food and water and no sanitary facilities. Even if the main engine had permitted them to do so, they would not have been able to redock with Mir because they had discarded the docking system along with the orbital module.

Reentry occurred as normal on September 7. After this the Soviets retained the orbital module until after deorbit burn, as they had done on the Soyuz Ferry flights.