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A Permanent Presence in Space

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In contrast to the American Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft--which landed in the ocean--the Soviets decided to land all their manned spacecraft on the ground, usually in southern Kazakstan. Rescuers could easily reach spacecraft landing in this sparsely populated region. Unlike the United States, the U.S.S.R. did not keep a large Navy at sea to assist in ocean rescue.

Ground photo of Soyuz capsule
269 k jpeg
SI#: 87-8660


At the end of a mission after the heat shield has been released, and just 2 meters (about 7 feet) above ground, four small engines on the base of the landing module fire. This softens the landing for cosmonauts, who describe the final instant of their flight as a sudden thump.

Lent by the Museum of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center, Star City, Russia

Soyuz retrorocket
163 k jpeg
SI#: 97-16259-4


This celestial globe was on board Soyuz 4 in 1969. Cosmonauts used such devices to determine their spacecraft's position by adjusting the constellations on the globe to match the stars they could see through the porthole. Cosmonaut Vladmir Shatalov decided the globe was too useful to leave behind in the Soyuz orbital module, so he brought it with him in the landing module to confirm the vehicle's position for reentry

Lent by the Perot Foundation

Soyuz celestial navigation globe
101 k jpeg
SI#: 97-16259-7


With three decades of operation, the Soyuz is a highly reliable spacecraft for transporting people and cargo to space stations. The Soviet government also used it for political and commercial benefit.

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