Encyclopedia Astronautica

Kamanin, Nikolai Petrovich (1908-1982) Russian VVS Officer, first commander of Soviet cosmonaut detachment 1960-1971. Advocate of piloted spaceflight, fought constantly for VVS role in space, blamed loss of space race on Korolev's insistence on using automated systems.

Kamanin was born in a worker's family in Melenki, Vladimir oblast in 1908 (in official documents, 1909, due to a school registrar's mistake). In 1927 he entered the Red Army. After flight training he spent the rest of his career in the VVS (Army Air Force). He came to international notice in 1934 when he was named Hero of the Soviet Union for commanding the air squadron that rescued the crew of the ice-bound Chelyuskin Arctic expedition. Kamanin personally flew nine landings on drifting ice floes to return 34 of the expedition to safety.

Following this exploit he was sent for advanced training at the Zhukovskiy Military Engineering Academy. After graduating he was appointed commander of an air brigade in 1938. By the end of the Soviet-Finnish War in 1940 he commanded a Military District Air Force. After organizing new air units in the desperate first months after the German invasion in 1941, he began direction of air combat operations in July 1942. Kamanin commanded various air armies on the Ukrainian front and ended the war in Prague. During the course of the war he developed innovative tactics for the Il-2 ‘Shturmovik' anti-tank aircraft, used to great advantage in the anti-tank operations in the Battle of Kursk.

After the war he held high positions in the command of the DOSAAF civilian reserve forces (All-Union Voluntary Society for Assistance to the Army, Air Force, and Navy). He graduated from the Military Academy of the General Staff in 1956. From 1960 to 1971 he was in charge of the Soviet cosmonaut team. In this position he had to invent entirely new methods for selecting and training cosmonauts, and conducting manned space operations. During this same period he was Assistant to the Commander-in-Chief of the VVS Air Forces for Outer Space. Following the death of the Soyuz 11 crew he was dismissed from his position. In 1972 he retired from the service. He died eleven years later and was buried in the Novedichiy Cemetery in Moscow.

Kamanin's diaries are a key documentary source for the history of the Soviet space program. He was engaged in a constant struggle with an indifferent hierarchy for an expansion of air force military operations into space. He also had to fight against Korolev and the other engineers for a role for the pilot in space flight. He blamed Soviet loss of the space race after 1966 to the unwillingness to let the cosmonauts actively control their spacecraft, as the Americans were doing. He figured that Korolev's insistence on automated rendezvous and docking techniques were costing his country years while the Americans were successfully using piloted techniques on Gemini and Apollo. A good Communist and a bit of a martinet, he was scathing in his critiques of the unfocussed Soviet leadership of the space program and especially the failings of Korolev's successor, Mishin.

Birth Place: Melenki, Vladimir.

Born: 1908.10.18.
Died: 1982.03.13.

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
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Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
Associated Programs
  • Vostok World's first manned spacecraft, it was later developed into the Voskhod, and numerous versions of Zenit recoverable reconnaisance, materials, and biological research satellites which remained in service into the 21st Century. More...

  • Kamanin, N P, Skritiy kosmos, Infortext, Moscow, 1995.

Kamanin Chronology

1961 March 25 - . 05:54 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC1. LV Family: R-7. Launch Vehicle: Vostok 8K72K. LV Configuration: Vostok 8K72K E103-15.
  • Korabl-Sputnik 5 - . Payload: Vostok 3KA s/n 2. Mass: 4,695 kg (10,350 lb). Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Keldysh; Goreglyad; Karpov; Kamanin; Yazdovskiy; Gagarin; Nelyubov; Popovich; Titov; Bykovsky; Nikolayev; Korolev; Kirillov; Voskresenskiy. Agency: RVSN. Program: Vostok. Class: Manned. Type: Manned spacecraft. Flight: Vostok 1. Spacecraft: Vostok. Duration: 0.0600 days. Decay Date: 1961-03-25 . USAF Sat Cat: 95 . COSPAR: 1961-Iota-1. Apogee: 175 km (108 mi). Perigee: 175 km (108 mi). Inclination: 64.9000 deg. Period: 88.00 min. Carried dog Zvezdochka and mannequin Ivan Ivanovich. Ivanovich was again ejected from the capsule and recovered by parachute, and Zvezdochka was successfully recovered with the capsule on March 25, 1961 7:40 GMT.
    Officially: Development of the design of the space ship satellite and of the systems on board, designed to ensure man's life functions during flight in outer space and return to Earth. Additional Details: here....

1965 March 12 - .
  • Cosmos 60 - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Keldysh; Rudenko; Ishlinskiy; Kamanin; Kerimov; Chertok; Korolev. At 13:00 the State Commission meets at the launch pad. All work is complete, and the approval to launch the E-6 robot probe to the moon is given. Keldysh takes the opportunity to confront Rudenko by asking him, who will manage the manned flights to the moon - the VVS or the Rocket Forces? Kerimov replies that this is a function of the VVS. Ishilinskiy, Kamanin, and Kerimov hope very much to be the first commander of a spaceport on the moon... The Lunik is launched successfully into earth parking orbit, but the fourth stage fails to ignite when the moment comes to launch it towards the moon. This is the sixth Lunik not to make it anywhere near its objective; together with the 100% failure rate of the planetary probes, there have been 10 failures. Kamanin believes this points to the absolute necessity of the crew being in control at all times during a manned lunar flight, as opposed to Korolev's insistent reliance on fully automatic systems. Korolev is greatly disturbed by this latest failure, and appoints Chertok to head the investigation.

1965 March 13 - .
  • Voskhod-2 crew briefing - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Korolev; Rudenko; Kamanin; Kuznetsov; Gagarin; Komarov; Belyayev; Leonov. Program: Voskhod. Flight: Voskhod 2. Spacecraft: Voskhod. Korolev, Rudenko, Kamanin, Kuznetsov, Gagarin, Komarov, and Tselikin give the crew their final briefing. Communications protocols are worked out. Korolev tells the crew he is satisfied that they are ready for flight, but tells them not to take unnecessary risks or heroics. The main thing is that they return safely to earth.

1966 January 28 - .
  • OKB-1 Program Review - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Kamanin; Gagarin; Komarov; Mishin. Program: Voskhod. Flight: Voskhod 3. Spacecraft: Voskhod. Kamanin, Gagarin, Komarov, and other VVS staff attend the first program review held since Korolev's death. Mishin reviews spacecraft build status. Voskhod s/n 5 is to be shipped to Tyuratam on 1 February and launched in the first half of February. This is the spacecraft fitted for the 30-day unmanned biosat mission with dogs. Kamanin had argued with Korolev over the last year that this flight was unnecessary, but Korolev did not want to expose the cosmonauts to the risk of a long-duration spaceflight with a heavily modified spacecraft without an unmanned precursor flight. The manned flight of Voskhod s/n 6 on an 18-day mission can only begin after the landing of s/n 5, e.g. launch in the period 10-20 March.

1966 November 21 - .
  • Soyuz crews agreed officially - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Kerimov; Mishin; Rudenko; Kamanin; Yeliseyev; Anokhin; Feoktistov; Komarov; Bykovsky; Khrunov; Gagarin; Nikolayev; Gorbatko; Kubasov. Program: Soyuz. Flight: Soyuz 1; Soyuz 2A. Spacecraft: Soyuz 7K-OK; Soyuz 7K-L1; Soyuz 7K-LOK. The weather continues to deteriorate, and Kamanin considers moving the Tu-104 and cosmonauts to Krasnovodsk in order to get the 24 necessary zero-G flights before launch. At 11:00 the State Commission meets at Area 31. Present are Kerimov, Mishin, Rudenko, Kamanin, Komarov, Bykovsky, Khrunov, Yeliseyev, Anokhin and others. Mishin describes the status of preparations of Soyuz s/n 1, 2, 3, 4 for launch. He notes that the L1 and L3 lunar spacecraft are derived from the 7K-OK, and that these flights will prove the spacecraft technology as well as the rendezvous and docking techniques necessary for subsequent manned lunar missions. Feoktistov and the OKB-1 engineers say a launch cannot occur before 15 January, but Mishin insists on 25 December. That will leave only 20 days for cosmonaut training for the mission, including the spacewalk to 10 m away from the docked spacecraft. Faced with the necessity for the crews to train together as a team prior to flight, Mishin at long last officially agrees to the crew composition for the flights: Komarov, Bykovsky, Khrunov, and Yeliseyev as prime crews, with Gagarin, Nikolayev, Gorbatko, and Kubasov as back-ups. However a new obstacle appears. KGB Colonel Dushin reports that Yeliseyev goes by his mother's surname. His father, Stanislav Adamovich Kureytis , was a Lithuanian sentenced to five years in 1935 for anti-Soviet agitation. He currently works in Moscow as Chief of the laboratory of the Central Scientific Research Institute of the Shoe Industry. Furthermore Yeliseyev had a daughter in 1960, but subsequently annulled the marriage in 1966.

    Later Feoktistov works with the crews on spacecraft s/n 1 to determine the feasibility of the 10-m EVA. The cosmonauts suggest a telescoping pole rather than a line be used to enable the cosmonaut to be in position to film the joined spacecraft. Bushuyev is tasked with developing the new hardware.

1982 March 13 - .
  • Death of Nikolai Petrovich Kamanin - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Kamanin. Summary: Russian VVS Officer, first commander of Soviet cosmonaut detachment 1960-1971. Advocate of piloted spaceflight, fought constantly for VVS role in space, blamed loss of space race on Korolev's insistence on using automated systems..

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