Soyuz 1, launched on April 23, 1967, was manned by Col. Vladimir Komarov. The word Soyuz means union. And as was the Russian custom, the launch went off without prior notice. His wife didn't even know that he was in space until a fellow pilot called her 25 minutes after the launch.
The mission of Soyuz 1 was to rendezvous and dock with another spacecraft. Reports said that Komarov was well, and that the orbit was normal. After about 27 hours, the flight bulletins ceased and no more was heard until 11 hours later. Then a terse announcement came, which said that the parachutes had failed on descent to earth. Komarov became the first man to be lost in space flight. The craft completed 18 orbits around the earth, and was in flight for 26 hours and 48 minutes.
The next manned Soyuz mission was the Soyuz 3. It was manned by Georgi T. Beregovoi, and it made a successful rendezvous with the unmanned Soyuz 2.
In January, 1969, the Soviet Union launched 2 manned missions. These were Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5. Soyuz 4 was manned by Vladamir A. Shatalov, and Soyuz 5 was manned by Aleksei S. Yeliseyev, Yevgeny Khrunov, and Boris Volynov. The Soyuz 5 was launched a day after the Soyuz 4, and once they had found each other in space, they docked and the crew transferred between crafts.
In April,1971, Soyuz 10 docked with Salyut 1, a space station. Sadly, due to the failure of Soyuz 10's oxygen supply, the three cosmonauts aboard lost their lives while returning to Earth.
Following this accident, the Soviet Union didn't launch
another three-person Soyuz craft for almost nine years.
In July, 1975, the Apollo 18 craft, and the Soyuz 19 docked, and the crews performed several experiments together. The visit went well, despite the Cold War going on at the time.
In 1980 the last Soyuz craft was launched. This was the Soyuz 40. Then the Soyuz T series took over. The Soyuz T series, like the Soyuz, were comprised of two- and three- person models.
Manned flights started in December, 1979, with Soyuz T-2 and ended in March, 1986, with the flight of Soyuz T-15.
The Soyuz TM series, like its predecessors, was comprised of two- and three-man models. In December, 1990, Tohiro Akiyama, a space correspondent for the Tokyo Broadcasting System television network, was carried to Mir by Soyuz TM-11. He was the first Japanese to go into space. He returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TM-10.
The Soyuz TM has been the craft that has taken astronauts to Mir so far. It was almost decided to abandon the Mir station and destroy it, but it has been decided that as long as funding is still available, the station won't be destroyed. However, for now it will be left unmanned.
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