Vladimir Mikhaylovich Komarov was born in Moscow on March 16, 1927. While serving with the Soviet Air Force, he was accepted into the Soviet Cosmonaut program on March 7, 1960.

Voskhod 1

He was the pilot of Voskhod 1, the world's first craft to carry more than one human into space. The other cosmonauts on the mission were scientist/engineer Konstantin Feoktistov (1926-) and physician Boris Yegorov (1937-1994). Voskhod 1 lifted off from the Soviet Union's Baikonur launch facility at 0731 GMT on October 12, 1964. The capsule and cosmonauts returned safely to earth on October 13th after completing 16 orbits of the earth with a mission duration of 24 hours 17 minutes.

The mission was rushed into space in order to beat the first Gemini launch (i.e. the first American spacecraft to carry more than one human). Numerous risks were taken including no spacesuits, no ejection seats and no escape tower.

Soyuz 1 / Soyuz 2

The Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 2 missions were joint missions planned to practice the rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit. The plan was for the three seat Soyuz 1 craft to lift off first with Komarov alone and at the controls. The three seat Soyuz 2 craft with Valeri Bykovsky (1934-), Yevgeni Khrunov (1933-2000), and Aleksei Yeliseyev (1934-) on board would then launch the next day and rendezvous with Soyuz 1. Khrunov and Yeliseyev would then space walk over to Soyuz 1 and return to earth with Komarov. If successful, the mission would achieve the first orbital rendezvous and the first crew transfer between crafts in orbit.

Soyuz 1 with Komarov at the controls lifted off from Baikonur at 0040 GMT on April 23, 1967. Problems started to develop immediately after orbital insertion when the solar panels failed to deploy. The decision to abort the Soyuz 1 mission and cancel the Soyuz 2 mission was made. The first attempt to leave orbit failed when an automatic system didn't fire a retro-rocket when required. A decision was made to fire the retro-rocket manually on the next orbit. As the spacecraft would be on the night side of the earth when the retro-rocket needed to be ignited, a manual system of aligning the spacecraft on the moon was used to time the firing of the retro-rocket (Apollo 13 used a similar navigational technique a number of years later on their way back from the moon after an explosion on their command module forced them to abort their mission). The rocket fired on time and the spacecraft left orbit. Unfortunately, the craft's parachute failed to deploy correctly and the capsule plummeted to earth. Komarov became the first human to die during a space mission on April 24, 1967 when his capsule crashed into the earth near Novoorsk, Orenburg Oblast, Russia.

Like the Voskhod 1 mission, the Soyuz 1/2 missions were rushed in order to beat the Americans. Komarov's backup on Soyuz 1 was Yuri Gagarin. Komarov and Gagarin are reported to have believed that the flight was doomed even before lift off due to the intense pressure from Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to launch "on time".


  • Komarov gave a speech in Japan on July 10, 1966. In the speech, he announced that the Soviet Union would beat the Americans to the moon by one year.
  • The Soviet Union announced their lunar flight assignments on September 1, 1966. Although the assignments changed frequently, Komarov was included in all announced lunar flight assignments from the original announcements on the 1st of September, 1966 until his death on April 24, 1967.

Postscript (written in April of 2011)

A just published book claims that NSA analyst Perry Fellwock recorded Komarov's final words as he screamed in rage at the people who put him in a known-to-be-defective craft. The book also claims that Komarov knew that the capsule was not space-worthy prior to the flight but chose to fly anyways as if he refused then his close friend Yuri Gagarin would fly (and die) in his place.

Needless to say, establishing the credibility of this claim is problematic. Comments in an article describing the claim and the book at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1367857/US-intercepted-Russian-cosmonaut-Vladimir-Komarovs-final-words-rage.html (last accessed in April of 2011) cast doubt on aspects of the story. Personally, I will remain skeptical of the claim unless/until it is corroborated from reliable sources.

The book is Starman - the truth behind the legend of Yuri Gagarin by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony. It was published in April of 2011 by Walker & Company (ISBN-10: 0802779506; ISBN-13: 978-0802779502).


The information in this writeup is almost entirely based on material gleaned from a dozen or more pages on the www.astronautix.com web site (i.e. this is NOT a cut-and-paste writeup although it is somewhat single-sourced).