Viktor Vassilyevich Gorbatko (cyrillic Виктор Васильевич Горбатко) was born December 3, 1934 in the city of Ventsy-Zarya, Russia. He attended the Baltic Army Pilot School near Rostov, then Bataiskoye Air Force School. He received am engineering diploma and was a Major General in the Soviet Air Force. He was selected as a cosmonaut during the first selection in 1960.

He was assigned to the backup commander for the Voskhod 2 flight. During this flight Aleksei Leonov became the first person to perform a spacewalk. However the flight almost ended in disaster as Leonov was unable to reenter into the airlock as his suit had ballooned. He was forced to do the potentially fatal exercise of slowly bleeding air from the suit to decrease its size.

Gorbatko was the proposed prime crew for the Vostok 13 flight which could have taken place sometime in April 1966. The spacecraft would have been allowed to naturally decay to a reentry after ten days. He would have investigated many aspects of manned spaceflight.

He was also the proposed backup crew for the Voskhod 6 flight that never took place. On this flight the crew would have tested the UPMK 'jet belt'.

His next assignment was to the backup crew for the original Soyuz 2 flight. This was to have docked with Soyuz 1 containing Vladimir Komarov. The flight was cancelled after the problems that Soyuz 1 experienced in orbit as well as rain at the Baikonur launch site.

He was then assigned to the backup crew for the Soyuz 5 mission that docked with Soyuz 4. This finally achieved the mission that had been aimed for on Soyuz 1, 2 and 3.

He finally got his first spaceflight on Soyuz 7 launched October 12, 1969. During the mission where he was classed as a research cosmonaut, Soyuz 7 and 8 were supposed to dock while Soyuz 6 took spectacular film nearby. The rendezvous system on all three failed and so this was not accomplished. Soyuz 7 and 8 did come with 500 metres of each other.

He was then assigned to the last of the Kontakt lunar rendezvous system tests. These were to be test of the system that would be used in lunar orbit. They accomplished this in Earth orbit utilising specially modified Soyuz spacecraft.

He was then assigned to the backup crew for the Soyuz 23 flight. This was meant to dock with Salyut 5 but the rendezvous system failed. The capsule landed in Lake Tengiz, in a -20°C temperatures during a snowstorm. The capsule was dragged under the surface and the heating system had to be turned off to conserve the battery power. It was not until the next morning that they could be recovered, miracously still alive.

Gorbatko next flight was Soyuz 24 launched Febraury 7, 1977. He and Yuri Glazkov docked with Salyut 5 carrying equipment to purge the air of the space station. It was suspected that this could have been the reason for the problems encountered on the Soyuz 21 mission.

It was found that there was no toxins in the air but they carried out the operation anyway. This meant that a planned EVA was not performed. The mission at only 18 days but was classed as highly successful, accomplishing nearly as much as the earlier Soyuz 21's 50 day mission.

Gorbatko last flight was Soyuz 37 launched July 23, 1980 (20 years after his selection as a cosmonaut!). This was the sixth Intercosmos mission carrying Pham Tuan from Vietnam. They docked with Salyut 6 for a week long mission. They landed in the six month old Soyuz 36 capsule.

In all Gorbatko spent 30 days, 12 hours and 47 minutes in space over three missions.

After leaving the space programme in 1982 he became a professor at the Air Force Engineering Academy in Moscow. He is presently General Director of AA & AL, Moscow.

He was twice of Hero of the Soviet Union, has three Orders of Lenin and the Red Star. He has the Konstantin Tsiolkovsky Gold Medal from the USSR Academy of Sciences. He is also a Hero of both the Mongolian People's Republic and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. He is an honourary citizen of Kaluga, Gagarin, Krasnodar, Armavir, Terek (Russia), Karaganda, Arkalyk, Kustanai (Kazakhstan), Sliven (Bulgaria) and Choybalsan (Mongolia).


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