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Cosmonauts transfer from Soyuz-5 to Soyuz-4

On Jan. 16, 1969, Aleksei Yeliseev and Yevgeny Khrunov, wearing Yastreb spacesuits, conducted a 37-minute transfer from Soyuz-5 to Soyuz-4 on the exterior of the spacecraft.

Previous chapter: Rendezvous and docking between Soyuz-4 and -5


Yeliseev transferes from Soyuz-5 to Soyuz-4 on Jan. 16, 1969.

Suiting up

Immediately after the successful docking between Soyuz-4 and -5, Vladimir Shatalov and Boris Volynov pulled out their instructions for performing a spacewalk between the two ships which was scheduled to take place between the 35th and 37th orbits of the Soyuz-4 mission. (849)

First, Volynov moved from the Descent Module of Soyuz-5 to the Habitation Module, where he installed and activated a movie camera in order to document on tape the entire process of preparations for the spacewalk. Next, Khrunov and Yeliseev transferred to the Habitation Module and began suiting up. They opened the seat cover in the Habitation Module and pulled out a pair of Yastreb (hawk) suits stored below. Yeliseev suited up first with the help of Khrunov. He found it easier to do than in the simulation aircraft, where he had only few seconds of weightlessness and always had to be in a hurry.

Once in the suit, Yeliseev had to adjust the line which held the neck ring of the suit at a certain distance from the waist, to prevent stretching of the garment under pressure. But he overdid it triggering a vomiting reflex, which forced him to make a swallowing effort and to gulp air a couple of times. Once he was ready, Yeliseev began helping Khrunov to put on his suit. In addition to the usual procedures, he also stuffed newspapers and letters for Volynov inside Khrunov's suit.

Volynov then strapped portable life-support units to the legs of both cosmonauts near their knees. Volynov then put helmets and gloves on both spacewalkers, after which he bid them farewell, retreated to the Descent Module and closed the hatch behind him.

Left alone, the cosmonauts still heard Volynov establish communications with Shatalov inside Soyuz-4.

Next, Volynov began depressurizing the Habitation Module, but only a little at first in order to make sure that his Descent Module was not leaking air. It also gave time to the spacewalkers to confirm that their suits were airtight. Since everything worked well, Volynov re-opened the depressurization valve and completely emptied the Habitation Module of air. The spacewalkers then moved away from the hatch and it was commanded to open.


As the two spacecraft were flying over South America, Khrunov began exiting the spacecraft, first up to his waist. Yeliseev then passed him a movie camera, which he installed on the exterior and Yeliseev activated it from a console inside the Habitation Module to document Khrunov's transfer. The spacewalkers then waited for a command from Volynov to proceed with the transfer. On Soyuz-4, Shatalov also had the same timeline, but the plan was for Volynov to manage the spacewalk. At the exact time, Volynov radioed: "Baikal-3 (Khrunov) is permitted to proceed with full exit." Yeliseev saw how Khrunov's legs began leaving the compartment, but then suddenly stopped. Few seconds later, Khrunov told Yeliseev in puzzled voice, "Lesh (short for Aleksei) (I) can't get out, take a look – something stuck." Looking through the narrow opening in the hatch still blocked by Khrunov's legs, Yeliseev noticed that a cable from the inside the spacecraft tangled around the portable life-support pack. "Get back," Yeliseev said and removed the cable, "Can exit now."

Finally, Khrunov left the compartment and Yeliseev got out of the hatch half way. He saw Khrunov just outside the hatch, holding the railing with both hands. "The transfer is permitted," Volynov radioed to his crew and Khrunov began moving away, while Yeliseev was ensuring that the cable was well stretched and had no chance to tangle again.

Suddenly, Khrunov said, "The fan is not working!" "Why did you think so?" Yeliseev asked. "There is no noise, (and) air is still."

Without ventilation, the cosmonaut risked to getting quickly overwhelmed by exhaled carbon dioxide in the small volume of the suit. Trying not to panic, Yeliseev quickly plunged back into the Habitation Module and confirmed that Khrunov's cable was still reliably plugged into the ship's outlet.

"Check the switch," was Yeliseev's immediate advice to Khrunov. "Already did," Khrunov responded, "It is good now."

It appeared that the tangled cable had pulled a little power switch on the suit below the lower edge of the helmet. From his vantage point inside the suit, the cosmonaut could not see the switch and could only determine its position by touch, which was not easy in inflated gloves. Khrunov then resumed the movement across with his right side first. Using only his hands, he quickly reached the interface between the two spacecraft, where he had to switch his safety lines from the railings on Soyuz-5 to those on Soyuz-4. He also removed a container with optical materials, which were exposed to space environment, from the exterior of Soyuz-4 and put in his pocket.

Once Khrunov reached the hatch on the Soyuz-4, he rotated the railing for the ingress. He then grabbed the railing and made a big arc movement with his feet to get them into the hatch of Soyuz-4. He turned back to Yeliseev still at the exit hatch of Soyuz-5. Upon entering the Habitation Module, Khrunov then plugged his suit into the power supply of the Soyuz-4 spacecraft and safely unplugged his suit from the cable which was extending from Soyuz-5. He then plugged the freed end of that cable also into the Soyuz-4's power outlet, while Yeliseev plugged the opposite end into his suit on Soyuz-5. After unplugging his umbilical to Soyuz-5, Yeliseev was ready to proceed with his own transfer.

However, he had one more task before leaving Soyuz-5. Yeliseev had to remove the camera and store it in the Habitation Module, so that Volynov could later pick it up and return it to Earth with him in the Descent Module. Yeliseev removed the camera and put it into the storage area under the seat, but the locks of the seat refused to latch, and the seat kept springing open despite Yeliseev's all efforts. Even worse, the bulky camera continued floating in the storage space and could potentially prevent the closing of the Habitation Module's hatch and, therefore make it impossible to re-pressurize the compartment.

Concerned about the schedule, Volynov told Yeliseev to store the camera as best as he could and immediately proceed with his transfer. As a last resort, Volynov could still discard the depressurized Habitation Module and make an emergency return to the Earth.

By that time, the two spacecraft entered the communications range of ground stations in the USSR and began transmitting live TV images to mission control. The communications window apparently lasted from from 14:20 to 14:35 Moscow Time during the 36th orbit for Soyuz-4. (774)

Unfortunately, a few seconds after Volynov's exit from Soyuz-5, ground controllers watched the movie camera with precious footage float out of the spacecraft. As a result, grainy TV images recorded on the ground remained the only visual documentation of the historic spacewalk.

Yet, Yeliseev made his transfer without any trouble. Attached to the spacecraft by safety lines, he even tried to let go the railings and just float outside.

When he approached the Habitation Module of Soyuz-4, Khrunov was already inside and moving away from the hatch to let Yeliseev enter. (849)

Once inside, the spacewalkers reported to Shatalov that the hatch could be closed. The cosmonauts still had some time reserve left, in case they were not be able to close the hatch on Soyuz-4 and had to return to Soyuz-5. (849)

In less than an hour, the crews on both ships re-pressurized their Habitation Modules, tested compartments for leaks and opened hatches between the modules.

According to Kamanin, in mission control, everybody was very impressed with the professionalism of the cosmonauts. (820) It was only the second venture of the Soviet cosmonauts outside spacecraft since Leonov's pioneering spacewalk almost four years earlier.

You've got mail

Once Shatalov entered the Habitation Module and activated the movie camera, the newly arrived Yeliseev and Khrunov presented him with newspapers and letters. He was apparently genuinely surprised.

To celebrate, Shatalov pulled out three tubes of juice, which the cosmonauts are seen drinking and partly splattering a few drops on the walls of the Habitation Module.

However, they had little time for celebration, because during the next communications session with mission control an orbit later, Soyuz-5 was scheduled to undock from Soyuz-4 and prepare for landing. (849)

Next chapter: Soyuz-4 lands

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The article and illustrations by Anatoly Zak; Last update: January 17, 2019

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: January 16, 2018

All rights reserved



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Yeliseev dons his Yastreb space suit aboard Soyuz-5, in preparation for a spacewalk.


Khrunov was the next to suit up, but the first to exit the spacecraft on Jan. 16, 1969.





Yeliseev during EVA on Jan. 16, 1969.



Shatalov got letters and newspapers delivered aboard Soyuz-5.