Previous chapter: Mission of Vostok-6
June 19: The landing
During the night from June 18 to June 19, Raushenbakh, Gagarin, Titov and Nikolaev prepared a set of recommendations for Tereshkova on the manual attitude control of her spacecraft. As she woke up, she unbuckled from her seat in order to get closer to the flight control instruments. To the satisfaction of Korolev, Tereshkova reported that after consultations with the ground, she had completed the exercise successfully. (466) For 15 minutes, during her 45th orbit she was able to hold the spacecraft with its braking engine facing in the direction of the flight, as it would be required during her deoribiting maneuver scheduled just few hours later.
At 09:39:40, ground controllers sent commands to Vostok-6 to start its automated deorbiting sequence. (574) In the following few minutes, the flight control system was supposed to orient the spacecraft using the Sun as a guide, fire the engine for 39 seconds and then separate the descent capsule with the cosmonaut from the instrument module. However, ground controllers did not receive confirmations for any of those critical milestones from Tereshkova. After a painfully long period of uncertainty, tension on the ground was partially eased with a message from a tracking ship in the Southern hemisphere, confirming the successful reception of critical commands onboard the spacecraft. However ground controllers still did not know Tereshkova's condition.
As Tereshkova would explain later, she telegraphed all the key milestones of the landing sequence via a morse code transmitter, but, somehow, nobody was listening to those signals! (Interestingly, Bykovsky later reported that he had also "telegraphed" the landing, indicating that both cosmonauts were instructed to do so. Apparently, Bykovsky was also confirming all the milestones over the voice radio channel.)
With plasma enveloping the ball-shaped capsule, Tereshkova saw pieces of burning material zooming by her window and she also felt smoke sipping into her cabin.
Several minutes after the scheduled time for the opening of the capsule's main parachute, radars detected the spacecraft and quickly predicted its landing site. Vostok-6 was moving along the ground track of its 49th orbit, but with a considerable overflight of its touchdown point. Again, mission officials had to endure a long period of uncertainty around the fate of the pilot. Only two hours after the predicted time of landing, did word finally come that Tereshkova was alive and well, some 620 kilometers northeast of Karaganda in Kazakhstan.
She ejected normally from her capsule at an altitude of around seven kilometers and then separated from the ejection seat. After the opening of the parachute, she saw her spacecraft and the seat plunging toward the ground. Shortly before her touchdown she saw a lake below and braced herself for a water landing, but, fortunately, flew over it.
She landed on her back just 400 meters from the spacecraft and not far from her crashed ejection seat. At touchdown, she hit her face onto the edge of her helmet, bloodying her nose and getting a bruise under her eye. According to her own recollections, which she reiterated in 2013, she got her injuries, when violent gusts of wind pulled her on the ground before she had a chance to free herself from the parachute.
Tereshkova apparently made it to her capsule, where she was soon surrounded by local people eager to help. Exhausted and hungry, she happily traded with them her space food for their home-made potatoes with onions and horse milk. According to some accounts, she got rid of her food in order to hide the fact of her near-starvation in orbit. She was also reported to tidy up the interior of her capsule and made records into her journal, as if these notes were made during the flight.
Despite previous instructions to stay away from any uncertified food, she continued her snack on the canvas of a parachute, as two rescuers parachuted from an aircraft and finally reached her around an hour after her landing. (466, 231, 574) One of the rescuers, Lyubov Maznichenko, a female doctor and a world record's holder in parachute jumping, apparently protested Tereshkova's attempts to mislead the post-flight analysis of her condition in space.
Next chapter: Landing of Vostok-5
Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: June 30, 2013
Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: June 30, 2013
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Lybov Maznichenko parachuted from an aircraft to help Tereshkova after landing. Maznichenko was not exactly happy seeing the cosmonaut giving away food supplies from her spacecraft and eating uncertified food.
A likely descent module of the Vostok-6 spacecraft shortly after landing.
The descent module of the Vostok-6 spacecraft. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak