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RUSSIAN SPACE
Apollo-Soyuz cosmonaut Kubasov saved me from death - Leonov, first spacewalker
by Dana Zolkina
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Feb 26, 2014


File image: Soviet cosmonaut Valery Kubasov.

Soviet cosmonaut Valery Kubasov, who took part in the first docking of a US Apollo spacecraft with a Soviet Soyuz, has died aged 79, the Russian spacecraft corporation said on Thursday. Alexey Leonov, retired Soviet/Russian cosmonaut and Air Force Major General who, on 18 March 1965, became the first human to conduct a space walk, talked about Kubasov in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

What kind of a person was Valery Kubasov?

Valery and I started to work together since 1969. We worked at all orbital stations, so to say, lived in one room for six years, our beds stood side by side. In 1971 he saved me from death. Another crew was launched, and they died. And I couldn't save him now, and it's a tragedy of my whole life. I did everything to pull him out of this situation - a major cardiovascular disease. He felt bad suddenly and was taken to a hospital, where he felt worse. And it ended in tragedy.

On February 10, Tom Stafford, commander of the Apollo crew, was at the Sochi Olympic Games with me. We made a telephone call to the hospital, and had a long talk with Valery. He was in good spirits. We expressed hope that we will return from Sochi and visit him in the hospital. Wait for us, we said. And suddenly, the next day, he lapsed into a coma and it all ended yesterday at 18.00 Moscow time.

Valery Kubasov was born in an old and beautiful Russian town of Vyazniki. He came from a family of working people. He was a brilliant pupil at school, which he graduated with silver medal. He withstood the competition to enter the Moscow Aviation Institute and graduated with a medal. He was taken on the staff of the Korolev's design bureau.

He was engaged in serious developments of control systems of not only orbital spacecrafts, but of spacecrafts that should go further, in particular, calculations of the trajectory to Mars. He is a highly educated person, competent engineer, delicate person. It was so easy for me to work with him.

We had quarrels, but later he used to come up to me and say "Excuse me, Alyosha, you are right." Or it was for me to say "Excuse me, Valera, you are right." We had this kind of relations. We formed a crew possessing the highest level of psychological compatibility. We underwent all trainings for the Salyut-1, Salyut- 2, Salyut-3, Salyut-4 and Salyut-5 space stations, and then it was time for the Soyuz-Apollo program, and the government found it appropriate to entrust the Leonov-Kubasov crew with it.

Let's talk about the Soyuz-Apollo program. What were its tasks? Maybe you remember something special about it.

It should be remembered that the 70s is the peak of the cold war. We were on the brink of a fire. But there were clever people in the USA and in the Soviet Union, first of all, President Nixon, President of NASA Fletcher, prime minister of the Soviet Union Alexey Nikolayevich Kosygin, President of the Academy of Sciences Keldysh - they understood the awful situation that was threatening the mankind. And they understood what should be done: let's find competent people and send them to space to work together.

And it all worked. It was very hard. It was necessary to study the American spaceship and to study English...The main task was to develop common systems that allowed to pass from one ship to another and work there. And the terms were too short. But we coped with this task. Almost 6 billion people were watching our work in space.

At a press conference after our flight Tom Stafford made an interesting statement: "I am sure that our states will certainly cooperate not only in space but in other fields of human activities."

I am proud that the Soviet government in its address to the people of the world gave the highest assessment of the work of our crew, they said the work was perfect. And it was not only my desert, but also Valery's desert as a flight engineer of the highest competence. The program was fulfilled wonderfully. And we extinguished this fire of war. And "climate conditions" on the Earth changed.

Can you remember some funny accident or some curious situation that remained in your memory?

Valery was a very serious person. He did not take much fancy to anecdotes and he often could not see jokes. But once we played a practical joke on the Americans. While still on the Earth, we prepared stickers like "Stolichnaya vodka", "Russkaya Vodka", "Poprigunya", and during the flight I attached them to tubes.

When we sat down at table, I said: "According to tradition, before meals we must drink Russian vodka to our health." It took a long time to persuade them. At last, they opened the tubes and started to drink, and it turned out to be borsch there. That was the joke Valery and I played on the Apollo crew.

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