Soyuz Owners’ Workshop Manual: 1967 Onwards (All Models) by David Baker (book review).

January 20, 2015 | By | Reply More

If you thought that the ‘Soyuz Owners’ Workshop Manual’ was solely, as astronaut Helen Sharman calls ‘a workhorse’, about the Soyuz, you’d be mistaken. What you have here is the history of the Russian space programme and some comparisons with the American space programme which puts things into historical perspective.


As such, it would hardly be any surprise that, after World War Two, the Soviets were initially focused on long range missiles capable of carrying potential nuclear warheads first before they realised the political significance on getting a payload into space on the Americans. Much of this work came from Sergei Korolev, but it wasn’t an easy option as he was amongst many rocket engineers being purged and executed by the Soviet regime. After World War Two and the acquisition of Germany V2s, things moved quickly and he got reinststed.

Reading of the comparisons between American and Soviet conditions is interesting. The Russians used a typical Earth atmosphere and gave very little control to cosmonauts, treating them as passengers with most of the control from the ground. As such, they had fewer controls. Considering also that they landed on the ground rather than ocean, the early cosmonaut had the option of parachuting down than with the capsule. Probably a better choice than landing on your back although that changed with Soyuz.

When it becomes more of a space race between the Soviets and the Americans, the former ended up targeting being the first at everything, getting Yuri Gargarin into space first amongst other goals. Something that I didn’t know was that the second cosmonaut Gerhman Titov was the first human to get space sick. They were also the first to get a woman into space with Valentina Tereshkova, who later married fellow cosmonaut Valeri Bykovsky and had a daughter. Although I doubt if that was part of the space programme, it at least showed orbital flight didn’t damage fertility.

In many respects, the Russians made the first space records. Many manned crew didn’t even wear pressure suits but standard clothing although that changed with Alexi Leonov being the first to do a space walk, even if they had to create an extendable airlock to keep pressure in the cabin. It was only with a pressure leak returning and the deaths of three cosmonauts with Soyuz 11 that they returned to wearing pressure suits.

What is most interesting is seeing them develop their own moon module and how it compared to the American version. There is also some comparison between the computers that I hadn’t known before. The Russians took it from an engineering than mathematical perspective and hence had fewer calculation failures.

The first of the special features strips down the Soyuz in extreme detail, even as far as the spacesuit which was seen as a total environment suit which they give live in for a couple weeks if need be. Unlike NASA’s spaceships which were built anew with each generation the Soyuz might be updated on its basic form but has stood the passage of time for some 40 years and over 150 mission missions. I have to wonder on this in some respects, if only because this might have restricted development research into longer distances.

I think what put things in perspective of size was when a Soyuz was linked up with an Apollo capsule and it was a third smaller, then again it didn’t have to go to the Moon.

Time marches on and Soyuz continues to function with trips to the International Space Station taking a variety of different nationals in the crews.

I think I learnt a lot more from what wasn’t said than given and there is a lot given. Like America, its looks like Russia also had restricted funds or else why has nothing been done to extend manned space exploration to orbit of the Earth. That isn’t to say other missions haven’t been done. Indeed, author David Baker points out an unmanned mission to the Moon for samples and bringing them back which is an accomplishment.

There is also a considerable insight into how Russians think in terms of their technology and its application. As Baker points out that unlike the Americans with NASA being civilian, the Russian space programme has always been under military control, although its purpose has always been largely peaceful. If you bought Haynes ‘Apollo 11: 1969 (Including Saturn V, CM-107, SM-107, LM-5) Owners’ Workshop Manual’ then this is a great companion book to own and read.

GF Willmetts

January 2015

(pub: Haynes. 172 page illustrated indexed large hardback. Price: £21.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85733-4057-3)

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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