Vitali Mikhailovich Zholobov (cyrillic Виталий Михайлович Жолобов) was born in the village of Zbyrievka, Ukraine. He lived throughout his childhood near the Caspian Sea. After finishing high school in 1959, he went to work for the Azerbaijan Institute of Oil and Gas. After working there for a couple of months he was drafted into the Soviet Army and worked as an engineer in the Aviation section. In 1963 he was selected a cosmonaut for the second intake.

He was assigned to the backup and support crews for various flights including the first flight to the first Almaz space station and the first and second flights to Salyut 3. He was to have been on the prime crew for the third and last flight to Salyut 3 in 1974. This mission was cancelled after it was found that the Igla Rendezvous System needed major modifications.

His only flight was Soyuz 21. Launched July 6, 1976 it docked with Salyut 5 space station for a 49 day stay. During the mission he and Boris Volynov made observations of an aquarium fish in the microgravity, imaged the Sun and made TV conferences with school pupils in Russia. They also performed military experiments as Salyut 5 was in fact a Almaz militaty space station designed for reconnaissance. It is thought that Salyut 5 was equipped with a SAR side-looking radar for reconnaissance of land and sea targets even through cloud cover.

They mission was cut short at the request of the crew as Zholobov was suffering from space sickness and the crew had some psychological problems. When they landed, crew was in very bad psychological and mental condition. It was later decided by the Soviet authorities that they had become emotional, not followed their physical training, and developed an unreasonable desire to return to earth.

The Soviet authorities decided that he was never to fly again.

In all he spent 49 days, 6 hours and 23 minutes in space.

He continued to train new cosmonauts and was the lead capcom at the Russian Mission Control. He left the cosmonaut corps in 1981 and returned to his native Ukraine. After the breakup of the Soviet Union he went into politics in his home state of Kherson.

He was a Hero of the Soviet Union (by Decree of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on September 1, 1976), and has one Order of Lenin. He is an honourary citizen of Kaluga, Prokopevsk (Russia), Tselinograd (Kazakhstan), Kherson (Ukraine).