Soyuz 9 launched June 1, 1970
at 19:00 UTC, the first manned night launch
. The reason for the night launch was so that the landing could be in daytime on Soviet soil. The launch was carried live on Moscow TV
and was witnessed by Neil Armstrong
, who was on an official visit to the USSR
, and was at the home of Georgi Beregovoi
at the time.
It was paved the way for the long duration space station missions by staying orbit for 18 days. This was a record for the time and still one of the longest spaceflights in a single spacecraft. It broke the previous record of the US Gemini 7 mission of 14 days, which had stood for five years.
On board were commander Andrian Nikolayev and flight engineer Vitali Sevastyanov. Their callsign for the mission was Sokol (Falcon).
During the mission the crew performed many experiments as well as some less serious things. The less serious things included watching the World Cup football games, and playing chess with ground control. They even voted in the Soviet Election.
The main focus of the experiments was to investigate the effects of exposure to long durations of weightlessness. Working 16 hour days, each crewman monitored the other's bodily reactions to prolonged weightlessness and took computerized test designed to measure his physical and mental adjustment to a zero gravity environment.
At this time the longest Soviet spaceflight was only 119 hours - Vostok 5. The mission gave the Russians a baseline between this and the expected month long Salyut missions.
The crew also got the chance to observe the Earth for an extended period of time. They watched weather patterns develop and were able to work in conjunction with several other satellites, sounding rockets and observers on the ground.
They tested new navigation systems for use on later missions. The crew would observe a star or feature on Earth with the sextant. The computer would use this information to calculate the orbit. On the next orbit the same object would be centred by the computer in the sextant to see how good the calculations were.
In order to keep the spacecraft evenly heated the crew spun the spacecraft at 2.5 rpm. The same procedure had been used on the Apollo flights (the Americans called it the 'bar-b-que' mode). The problem for Soyuz 9 was that they had to despun the spacecraft everytime they wanted to make any observations. This did cause the crew to feel slightly nauseous, but neither of them reported any effects of space sickness during the whole flight.
The crew also tested the equipment that would be used on the space station flights. This included the clothing, personal hygeine and food. Sevastyanov suggested that more spare socks needed to be carried as feet got cold through lack of circulation.
They each ate 2600 calories per day over four meals. They had 30 items to choose from, stored in tins, tubes and packets. The crew recorded not only what they ate but how it tasted. Nikolayev filled his 600-page log book with notes and observations from this and other experiments he and Sevastyanov completed.
The mission marked a shift in emphasis away from spacefarers merely being able to exist in space for the duration of a long mission (such as the Apollo flights to the moon) and being able to actually live in space.
It was found when they got back to Earth that they had weakened considerably. They needed 10 days to reach their preflight strength. They had sacrificed exercise time to perform experiments. Because of this later missions were most more rigid in their exercise and the ground would make sure the crew had done their mandatory exercise.
The capsule landed June 19, 1970, 75 km west of Karaganda, Kazakhstan. The landing was shown for the first time live on television, but not the crew egress.