Launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome; landing
195 km southwest of Tselinograd / 140 km southeast of Arkalyk.
Soyuz 23 ferry spacecraft suffered a docking system failure. Sensors indicated
an incorrect lateral velocity, causing unnecessary firing of the thrusters
during rendezvous (approach was until 100 m). The automatic system was turned
off, but no fuel remained for a manual docking with the Salyut 5 space station.
Crews were normally trained for a manual dock, but not for a manual approach.
So the only possible solution was an immediate return to Earth.
spacecraft experienced a remarkable and near catastrophic return to Earth. The
crew landed at night on a frozen lake (Tengiz) during a snow-storm (195 km
southwest of Tselinograd / 140 km southeast of Arkalyk). The ice broke, the
parachute became wet and took the escape hatch under water. The capsule was
cooled and the heating systems had been turned down to conserve the battery
Several attempts, to reach the capsule, failed. But the capsule's
beacons could not be seen in the heavy fog, and rubber rafts used to try to
reach them were blocked by ice and sludge. Amphibious vehicles were air-lifted
to the vicinity, but could not reach the capsule owing to bogs surrounding the
lake. Accordingly, the rescue was called off until dawn. The cosmonauts were
safe, but they were low on power, so they were forced to shut down everything
but a small interior light. The next morning, frogmen were dropped in by
helicopters, attached flotation devices to the Soyuz craft and recovered the
crew. The capsule was too heavy to be lifted by the helicopter, so it was
dragged to shore. The recovery operation had taken nine hours. The rescue men
were surprised to find the crew alive.