Vasili Grigoryevich Lazarev (cyrillic Василий Григорьевич Лазарев) was born February 23, 1923 in the city of Poroshino, Russia. He graduated from the Higher Air Force School and received a Doctorate of Medicine. He achieved the rank of Colonel in the Soviet Air Force and was selected as a cosmonaut in 1964 intake.

His first assignment was as a back up for the Voskhod 1 flight, the first multiperson mission. Instead of being a new spacecraft like the American two person Gemini, Voskhod was little more than a Vostok capsule with the seats at a different orientation to allow three people to fit in. They had to twist their heads in order to read their instruments which were still in their original positions.

He was on the backup crew for the long duration Soyuz 9 flight. It stayed in orbit for over 17 days, the longest flight at that time, and still the longest in a single spacecraft. They conducted experiments on the medico-biological, scientific and technical effects of prolonged orbital flight.

He was then assigned to a succession of missions that never flew. He was to be on the crew of the first test of the Kontakt rendezvous/docking system of the LK lunar lander. He was then to be on the second mission to the the second Salyut space station. What would have been Salyut 2 was destroyed during launch. After the loss of the station all the crews were moved onto the third space station. These missions were also cancelled after the space station (called Cosmos 557 by the Soviets) failed in orbit.

His first spaceflight was Soyuz 12 launched September 27, 1973 also with Oleg Makarov on board. This mission tested out the newly improved Soyuz spacecraft after the fatal Soyuz 11 mission. It featured batteries instead of solar panels and only had space for two crewmembers, who now wore spacesuits.

His next flight was to be Soyuz 18 again with Makarov, but things went horribly wrong. It launched perfectly on April 5, 1975 for what was expected to be a record 60 day stay at Salyut 4. But during second and third stage seperation, only 3 of the 6 locks released while the third stage still ignited. The crew could not initiate abort and the ground couldn't see the gyrations in their telemetry.

Finally, seven seconds later an automatic computer on board initiated an abort and the Soyuz finally was separated from the rocket at 192 km up (or as the official Soviet report said "the parameters of the carrier rocket's movement deviated from the pre-set values, and an automatic device produced the command to discontinue the flight and detach the spaceship for return to Earth").

They endured a reentry that reached 23.1 G and landed the China-Mongolia border region, 80 km from Soviet territory (officially it was said to be in the Altai mountains). The crew were recovered by a Soviet forces, all without the Chinese being informed. The capsule was retrieved the next day.

All this occurred three months before the Apollo Soyuz Test Project. It further heightened the fears of some people in the US that the Soyuz spacecraft was not safe. After some 'encouragement' the Soviets finally revealed that it was an early version of the rocket that "less diligently checked" than the one that would be used by Soyuz 19.

This was tow be Lazarev's last flight. He was assigned to the prime crew for a Soyuz T flight to Salyut 6 but this was cancelled after he failed a physical due to the injuries received during the Soyuz launch abort. In all he spent 1 day, 23 hours and 15 minutes in space.

He died on December 31, 1990, with his death being attributed to alcohol poisoning.

He was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union (by Decree of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from October 2, 1973), two Orders of Lenin. He is also the honourary citizens of Kaluga, Barnaul, Ekaterinburg, Pechora (Russia), Dzhezkazgan, Karaganda (Kazakhstan).


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