The world’s first space station was launched 50 years ago today

On April 19, 1971, 50 years ago, the world’s first space station – Salyut 1 – was launched.

His first success for the Soviet Salyut program paved the way for the future of space exploration, allowing astronauts to spend long periods of time in space and conduct science experiments and make the observations that shaped human history, as well as breaking numerous space records. , all ratified by the FAI.

About Salyut 1

Following the American success of the Apollo missions, the Salyout 1 space station program was born out of a Soviet desire to advance space exploration. It was launched two years before the American space station Skylab.

Launched atop a Proton Booster rocket, the Salyut 1 was a 20-meter (66-foot) long ship with several sections, three of which were pressurized and two accessible to cosmonauts. The space station consisted of a transfer compartment with a docking system to allow the internal transfer of the crew, a main compartment about 4 meters long with control stations, 20 portholes and areas colored to facilitate orientation in zero gravity, and the Orion 1 space observatory to perform ultraviolet spectroscopy. of stars. Scientific equipment also included an experimental vegetable garden.

Following its launch and the unsuccessful docking of the Soyuz 10 spacecraft, the June 1971 Soyuz 11 mission sent cosmonauts Georgy Dobrovolsky, Valdislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayez to spend time testing the station’s controls. , to study the geology of the Earth’s surface, meteorology and snow and ice cover as well as the observation of the atmosphere and outer space. All three cosmonauts successfully docked and spent 23 days on Salyut 1, but all three tragically lost their lives as the cabin atmosphere was lost on return to Earth due to a fault. .

The design of Salyut 1 formed the basis of all Soviet space stations up to Salyut 7, whose mission was to test for the largest Mir station, launched in 1986. One of the greatest successes of the Salyut’s program was Salyout 6, which had two docking stations and enabled the first triple link in space history. The success of this mission also brought new supplies of fuel and food to the cosmonauts on board, allowing longer stays in space and more records to be broken.

Salyout 1 set the precedent for space stations, and contributed to the continuing history of human space exploration that continues to this day aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the international partnership program that has been launched in 2000 and has since hosted more than 240 astronauts from around the world.

Space stations

Images courtesy of NASA
Header Image – Soyuz berths with Salyut 1;
NASA / David SF PortreeHardware Legacy Mir. NASA Reference Publication 1357 (March 1995)
International space station – artists concept