Vladimir Titov, the only person living to have survived a spacecraft abort on the launch pad, seems the most appropriate well-wisher on the planet for the upcoming Orion Flight Test crew module Pad-Abort (PA) tests.
The former cosmonaut autographed the inside of the test vehicle during a visit to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center earlier this year, and can speak with some authority as to what to expect in the event of something going badly wrong on launch.
Inside the Orion pad abort test vehicle (above)
and (below), NASA engineers indicate Titov's signature.
(pics: Guy Norris)
On Sept 27, 1983 Titov and fellow cosmonaut Gennady Strekalov were scheduled for launch Sept. 27, 1983, on board Soyuz T-10 when it all went disastrously wrong. A valve in the propellant line failed to close 90 sec prior to liftoff during the countdown. With fuel spilling all around a huge fireball enveloped the base of the launch vehicle just one minute before launch, burning through the wiring that controlled the automatic abort sequence.
Two launch controllers had the presence of mind to manually abort the mission 12 secs after the fire began and the Soyuz descent module was pulled clear by the launch escape system. The crew were pummeled by forces of 15 to 17 g's, but landed safely about two and a half miles from the launch vehicle which exploded seconds after the Soyuz separated. The two men were unharmed during their five-minute, 30-second flight, and from that day on celebrated their escape every year as a second birthday.
Titov, who retired from the Russian Space Agency in 1998, twice received the Order of Lenin in the 1980s as well as becoming a Hero of the Soviet Union. He was also awarded the title of Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur by France in 1988. In 1990 he was also awarded the U.S. Harmon Prize along with cosmonaut Musa Manarov after jointly setting a world endurance record of nearly 366 days in space. Strekalov also went on to other achievements including a memorable final flight in mid-1995 when he flew to Mir with Norman Thagard, the first US astronaut to fly to a Russian space station. Strekalov died in December 2004.