Blog Post Number 2 Written:05-15-2021 Uploaded: 01-29-2022
Here’s another quick post, about some names I have used. The secondary characters are all named after actual people from Russian history. Some lesser-known, but the ones I think deserve the mention here are Viktor Patseyev, Georgy Dobrovolksy and Vladislav Volkov. Those were the three men aboard the Soyuz 11 spacecraft. They weren’t even the originally intended crew for that mission, but due to someone possibly having T.B. the primary crew was pulled off the mission and these guys were reassigned to it. They launched on June 6 1971 They managed to successfully dock with the Salyut 1 space station returning after some months earlier, Soyuz 10 had failed to dock with the space station. After the docking procedure that took more than three hours as they carefully, manually steered the spacecraft in, docked with the station, made the mount rigid and made electrical and atmospheric connections between the two, and equalization of atmospheres before the doors opened. This all happened on June 7th, 1971. After the docking, they spent 22 days aboard the space station. This was the longest time any men had spent on a space station and was standing record until the US and Skylab space stations beat them out about two years later.
They encountered and overcame all kinds of problems during their three weeks on the space station. Quality of atmosphere problems that forced them back into their module for a couple days while the scrubber system cleaned it, and even an onboard fire. They did live TV broadcasts and were supposed to watch the launch of one of the N1 rockets (all four of the attempted N1 launches resulted in low altitude or on the pad explosions.) on June 29th they transferred all the equipment, experiments and data back from the Salyut space station onto their return module and undocked from the space station. Five hours later they fired descent rockets to slow their ship and begin atmospheric re-entry. Total flight time was 570 hours and included 383 orbits, 18 before and 3 more after rendezvous with the space station.
However, when the rescue helicopter arrived at the landing site, they found all three men dead inside the capsule. It was determined that the hatch hadn’t sealed right and after decoupling from the space station, the atmosphere of their capsule vented killing all three men with “pulmonary Embolisms” these remain the only three men to actually die in the vacuum of actual space. Have to love that Soviet engineering. The way the capsule was designed it was able to perform a normal re-entry and landing without any input from the men. They were not wearing pressure suits and all appeared swollen and blue once on the ground. They were given large state funerals and buried at the red square necropolis close to the third man in space Yuri Gagarin. They died in the name of science and are some of the underappreciated heroes of man’s ascent into the heavens. They are one of the many stories and tragedies from the Soviet space program that is not well known or respected enough here in the United States, the Soviet space program did lots. They had more launches, more failures, and dare I say, more successes than the American space program. Another Example is Lydia Litvyak. She was a Soviet female fighter pilot in WWII, and the first woman to become an Ace. There is some dispute with how many victories she actually had, some say 6, some estimate as high as 11.
Another common figure is 9. Personally, I suspect the 6 figure is more accurate, because there are multiple recorded cases of her sharing an aircraft victory with another pilot, and those instances of partial victories are where the other numbers come from, depending on how much credit people try to offer her. Regardless she was a hero, having been on the small list of female fighter pilots to earn the title of Ace. Unfortunately, she did not survive the war, she died in 1943 at the age of 21.
Her plane was damaged in combat and she was forced to make a crash landing in a farmer’s field. She suffered a traumatic head injury during the crash, and despite the farmers finding and caring for her, she died sometime that night. Afterwards, the farmer buried her in a shallow grave at the edge of the field. For a long time, her fate was unknown and she was correctly assumed dead. Post-war, with the correlation of records, it was determined that she had been shot down by the team of Hans-Jorg Merkel (Who had 30 victories and Iron cross holder) and Hans Schleef (who later was attributed with a total 99 victories.) These two excellent German pilots had to work together to bring her down, which goes to show you how good she was, and what it took to defeat her. I won’t go into details about her personality or personal life here, that’s beyond the scope of this post. I just intend to help her receive the recognition I feel she deserves.
It wasn’t until much later that the Soviet Union started putting effort into recovering and recognizing their dead and recording the historical events of the second world war. Her aircraft was shot down on August 1st, 1943. The wreck of her plane wasn’t found until 1979, after an exhaustive search that found some 90 other crash sites. Her’s was near the town of Dmitrievka.
They later found and with a special commission exhumed her remains from the shallow grave at the edge of the farmer’s field. She was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union (along with the order of Lenin, Order of the red banner, and order of the red star.) and laid to rest in a proper military graveyard with the final rank of senior Lieutenant. But that wasn’t until May 6th, 1990. Her heroism and sacrifice is a powerful tale, and the story was nearly lost to the world. She is the namesake of Captain Lydia Litvak (yes I slightly changed the spelling to make English language editors happy) and her historical significance is part of why I chose that name for such a significant character in the series (who by the way was not intended to play such a large role in the story, she was supposed to be three sentences, but she became convenient to reuse in the second book, and then the third, and now she’s got her own entire story arch. Even so long after she passed Lydia will not be denied victory.)
Anyway, those are some significant examples, but there are more characters with historically significant names to come, so if you’re ever bored, look up my character names on Wikipedia sometime. I could go on about the secondary characters, but I don’t want to drag this post out any longer than I already have. There is so much we don’t know, both in science and in history, so much that we as Americans aren’t taught, especially about the many heroes and accomplishments of and from the Soviet Union. They had an audio recording from Venera probes on the surface of Venus in the ’80s for Pete’s sake, there’s so much to learn. If you have a similarly unknown, but historically significant story or person, please share it with me, with us. You never know where you’ll find your inspiration.