January 19, 2009 Forty years ago this week saw one of the most spectacular escapes from certain death in recorded history. Soviet Commander Boris Volynov was returning to earth in Soyuz 5 when the service module failed to separate and he found himself entering the earth’s atmosphere with an inverted craft and the heat shields facing backwards. He was just moments from incineration when the service module sheared and the craft resumed the correct orientation. The heat damage was extensive though, and the descent parachute only partially deployed, then the chute-mounted soft-landing rockets failed, and it landed so hard Volynov smashed teeth. Crawling out of the craft, he found himself in minus 38 C temperatures in wilderness, hundreds of kilometres outside his landing zone, so he walked until finding a peasant hut. Volynov is also a contender for the most frightening case of déjà vu in history – seven years later, while flying Soyuz 21 …
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