YEVGENY KHRUNOV REMEMBERED
In March 2000, at the Star City near Moscow there was a celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Russian Cosmonaut Training Center named after Yu. A. Gagarin. Among those attending the celebration were members of the first Gagarin’s team. In 1960, twenty young pilots began training for space flights.
However, just over half of them arrived for the celebration. Time has no mercy, and many those, who in fact launched the work of this Center, are no longer with us : the lives of Yurij Gagarin, Vladimir Komarov, Pavel Belyaev, and their other friends, were interrupted a long time ago. Now there is another loss. On May 19, 2000, the heart of another member of the first team, Evgenij Khrunov, stopped beating. Now only ten of them are alive.
Evgenij Vasil'evich Khrunov was born to a large peasant family on September 10, 1933, in the village of Prudy, in Volovskij district, in the Tula region. Besides him, the parents Vasilij Egorovich and Agrafena Nikolaevna Khrunov had two daughters and five sons. Evgenij's childhood took place during World War II. Often he saw brutal air fights between Soviet and German pilots in the sky above his village.
According to family members, this was the time when he decided to become a pilot. With time, this desire was growing stronger and stronger. His after-the-war years were also difficult, especially, after the death of his father. His mother had to care for a large family by herself.
After graduating from the seventh grade of middle school, Evgenij enrolled in an agricultural trade school in the town of Kashira (Tula region). He graduated in 1952. In the same year he was drafted into the army, and sent for training to a military aviation school. One year later he applied, and was accepted into the Batajskoe Military Aviation School for Pilots. His fellow servicemen recalled that he had an immense love for flying. In 1956, he graduated from this school, and was sent to serve with the 86th Guards Fighter Regiment of the 119th Fighter Division, of the 48th Air Army located in the Odessa Military District.
It so happened, that another future cosmonaut, member of the Gagarin's team, Viktor Gorbatko, also served in Khrunov's wing. In 1959, both of them successfully passed medical exams, and on March 9, 1960, by the order of the CINC of the Air Force, Konstantin Vershinin, they were assigned to military unit 26266 - the future Cosmonaut Training Center.
A year later, after completing general space training programme, Khrunov became a fully-fledged cosmonaut. He began training under the framework of specific programmes. The initial flight plans developed in the end of 1961 for the "Vostok" programme envisioned launching 15 spaceships. Khrunov was scheduled to pilot one of them - "Vostok-12". The program called for a 10-15 day flight at an altitude of 1000 kilometers. However, in 1963, the plans were revised, and Khrunov was assigned to a group training for two "Vostok" flights with a scheduled duration of 8-10 days. However, these plans didn't materialize either Construction of "Vostok" spaceships was abandoned, and all cosmonauts began flight training for other programmes.
In 1964, Khrunov began training for the "Vykhod" programme that envisioned the first ever space walk. On March 18, 1965, Aleksej Leonov was the first in the world to leave a spaceship's cabin and soar in weightlessness above the Earth. Evgenij Khrunov served as Leonov's back-up, though at that time, only a few people knew about this.
After the successful flight of the "Voskhod-2", plans were drafted for future flights of this spaceship type. Unfortunately, these plans were often revised, and in the end remained unrealized. First, Khrunov was penciled in as the commander for the "Voskhod-6", scheduled to launch in the beginning of 1967. Later he was assigned to serve as the second pilot on one of the "Voskhod" spaceships. He was expected to perform 2-3 space walks during this flight, moving to a distance of 50-100 meters away from the ship.
However, as I stated above, there were no new “Voskhod" flights. They were replaced by more modern "Soyuz" spaceships. Khrunov began training for these flights. By the mid-1960s there were several piloted space programmes conducted simultaneously in the Soviet Union. Khrunov was training for flights to near-Earth orbit aboard "Soyuz 7K-OK" type spaceship, and for flights to the Moon aboard the "L-3" type spaceship. During preparation for launch of the first two "Soyuz 7K-OK" type spaceships, Khrunov together with Valerij Bykovskij and Aleksej Eliseev was included as the main crew on the "Soyuz-2". The flight programme envisioned docking of the "Soyuz-2" with the "Soyuz-1" piloted by Vladimir Komarov. After the docking, Khrunov and Eliseev were supposed to enter the "Soyuz-1" through the open space, and return to Earth aboard that spaceship. The experiment began on April 23, 1967, with the launch of the "Soyuz-1". "Soyuz-2" was supposed to be launched a day later. However, the "Soyuz-1" encountered malfunctions soon after launch, and the launch of the "Soyuz-2" was cancelled. Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov died during his return to Earth on April 24, 1967.
This tragedy forced developers to introduce significant changes in spaceship design, and naturally, to reexamine plans for future piloted flights. Despite the delay, Khrunov and his friends continued on with their training. In 1968, without the leave of absence from his job in the Cosmonaut Training Center, he graduated from the Zhukovskij Military Engineering Academy. He received an engineering degree in addition to his military education.
Finally, Evgenij Khrunov's hour of glory arrived. On January 15, 1969, together with Boris Volynov and Aleksej Eliseev he flew to space onboard the "Soyuz-5" spaceship. The next day became noted for arrival of the first ever experimental orbital space station in the near-Earth orbit. Next, there was another experiment that still has no parallels. Evgenij Khrunov and Aleksej Eliseev put on their space suits and entered the open space. Thirty-seven minutes later they were met onboard the "Soyuz-4" spaceship by Vladimir Shatalov. To this day their transfer from ship-to-ship through the open space is the only such feat in the world. On January 17, the cosmonauts returned to Earth. Evgenij Khrunov worked in space for one day 23 hours 45 minutes and 50 seconds.
Later, he trained for new flights but didn't get a chance to fly into space again. It is difficult to say if this was due to fatal unluckiness or something else. These are just the facts. In July 1969, he was appointed as commander of the second crew of the "Soyuz-7" spaceship, to replace the ailing Anatolij Kuklin. However, several days later he had an automobile accident, and was relieved from further training. The Soviet "Moon Programme", in which Khrunov played a prominent role, was closed down.
His work at the Cosmonaut Training Center, didn't keep Evgenij Khrunov from advancing his education. In 1971, he successfully defended his candidate of sciences thesis - "Bio-mechanics of human work in outer space". In 1972, he graduated cum laude from the Lenin's Military and Political Academy.
Later Khrunov had to train for flights within the scope of other programmes, including the "Almaz" programme (piloted orbital reconnaissance station). In late 1970s, during the start of the implementation of the "Interkosmos" program, he was among cosmonauts training for this program. In 1980, together with Cuban cosmonaut Jose Armando Lopes Falcone, he was training to serve as second crew within the framework of the Soviet-Cuban flight. Afterwards, together with Dumitru Prunariu, he trained for the Soviet-Rumanian flight as the commander of the first crew. However, here too he met another disappointment. In December 1980 Khrunov was expelled from the cosmonaut team for violation of regulations.
He began working for the 30th Scientific and Research Institute of the USSR Ministry of Defense. There he worked as senior scientific associate of the 120th Laboratory of the 46th Department of the 1st Directorate of the Institute. From 1983 until 1989 he worked in the Main Technical Directorate of the USSR State Committee for Foreign Economic Cooperation (deputy chief of the directorate; chief of the directorate). After retiring from the USSR Armed Force in 1989 with the rank of a colonel, he participated in the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident clean-up.
Hero of the Soviet Union (by the USSR Supreme Soviet Decree of January 22, 1969). Awarded order of Lenin and the Red Star, and ten Soviet and two Bulgarian medals. The USSR Academy of Sciences awarded him with the Tsiolkovskij Gold Medal. The International Aviation Federation awarded him with Distinguished V.M. Komarov Diploma, and the de Lavo Medal. Distinguished Master of Sports of the USSR. Honorary citizen of Russian cities of Kaluga, Tula, Shakhtersk, Chirchik, and the village of Prudy. The streets in the township of Volovo (Tula region), and Nepryadvenskaya and Krasnoznamennaya schools in the Shchelkovskij district are named after him.
He is the author of several books including "Conquering Weightlessness", "The Road to Mars", "In Orbit Outside the Ship" (the last two together with L. Khachatur’yants). Besides writing books, Khrunov was also a avid book collector. His home library contained several thousand books. Evgenij Khrunov was buried in Moscow at the Ostankino cemetery.
("ORBIT", Journal of the Astro Space Stamp Society, Issue № 47, October 2000).