Valeri Illyich Rozhdestvensky (cyrillic Валерий Ильич Рождественский), was a Soviet cosmonaut born February 13, 1939 in the city of Leningrad, Russian. His father was a naval cadet. His family moved to Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan during World War Two, though they returned to Leningrad after the end of the war. He finished high school in 1956 and attended the Dzerzhinskogo Naval Engineering School. He graduated from there in 1961 becoming a diver specialising in salvage and rescue. He entered into the Soviet Navy being stationed in the Baltic Fleet. He was selected as a cosmonaut for the 1965 group.
He was assigned to a series of backup and support crews, all missions to the Almaz space stations (Soyuz 14, Soyuz 15 and Soyuz 21).
His first and only flight was Soyuz 23 launched October 14, 1976 and was meant to be the second mission to Salyut 5.
The mission was completely nominal up until the point when the crew were 40 metres from the station. At this point the Mission Control overid the automatic system and stopped the approach because the spacecraft was going too fast. It was decided to return the crew to Earth. The reentry was not controlled properly and the crew landed in the frozen Lake Tengiz.
The parachute became wet and dragged the capsule underwater and upside down. The next problem facing the crew was that there was no way for fresh air to get into the capsule so they would have to use the regeneration equipment. This was not designed to operate for longer than a couple of hours. Rozhdestvensy worked out a way to save the equipment by only turning it on when they began to feel themselves becoming faint.
The shoreline of the lake was swampy preventing amphibious vehicles reaching the capsule that had landed 2 km from the shore. It was decided that the only way to rescue the crew was to hook the parachute up to a helicoptor and try to somehow dragged it too shore. This was accomplished by having a diver jump into the freezing lake and hook a line to the capsule. The helicoptor than dragged the capsule for over 5 km to solid land.
After the flight his friends began to call him "Admiral Tengizsky".
In all he spent 2 hours and 6 minutes in space.
He continued to work in the Soviet space program training future crews and in Mission Control. He left the cosmonaut corps in 1993, and became the director of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. He now works in Metropolis Industries.
He was a Hero of the Soviet Union (by Decree of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on November 5, 1976) and has one Order of Lenin. He also has the Order of Service to the Motherland. He is also an honourary citizen of Kaluga, the Pine forest and Borodino Nizhniy Novgorod area, Gagarin Smolenskoj area (Russia) and Arkalyk (Kazakhstan).