Soyuz 17 was launched January 11, 1975
. It was the first flight to the Salyut 4 space station and would be the first fully successful flight to a Russian
civilian space station.
On board were Georgi Grechko and Aleksei Gubarev. Their callsign for the mission was Zenit (Zenith).
The crew were in for a surprise when they entered the space station the day after launch. Waiting for them was a note that read "Wipe Your Feet!"
Salyut 4 was a civilian space station and as such was similar to the American Skylab in the experiments performed. It was primarly an astrophysical observatory and as such 4 telescopes. OST-1 was used for observing the sun in ultraviolet in order to measure its surface temperature. ITS-K was a infrared telescope the studied bright stellar, galatic and solar systems objects. Filin was used in the new field of X-Ray astronomy. These high energy waves cannot penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and so have to be observed from Earth orbit. And finally, RT-4 was a second X-Ray telescope used to measure the 'brightness' of objects.
As well as their astrophysical research, the crew also did biological experiments. There were various closed containers that investigated single celled plant growth, fruit flies, development of eggs of the South African Marsh Frog and changes in animal cell structure. Their was also the Oasis-1M greenhouse that grew several types of plants to see how well they grew in microgravity, principally onion and pea plants.
The crew spent a month on the station. On February 9, 1975 they undocked and performed the retrofire. They landed 110 km northeast of Tselinograd, Kazakhstan, in a snowstorm. This meant that there was very limited visibility and high winds. But the skillful helicpter pilot was able to recover the cosmonauts within ten minutes of them landing.