Today in history... The launch of Soyuz 13

Russia has yet to land a man on the Moon but, as early as 1971, it had achieved the remarkable feat of putting a maintainable space station in orbit around the Earth, two years prior to the US's Skylab station.

The Soyuz 13 mission marked the second test flight of the redesigned Soyuz 7K-T spacecraft, first flown as Soyuz 12.

Soyuz 12 had been designed to dock with a Russian space station but, due to the technical failures of the Salyut 2 and Cosmo 577 space stations (both left to burn-up in Earth's orbit), it had nothing to dock with.

EVA Space Suit flown
Soyuz space suit, sold for €87k


Instead, Soyuz 13 was equipped with the Orion 2 Space Observatory (Orion 1 had featured aboard the first Russian space station). Unlike Soyuz 12, Soyuz 13 was also equipped with solar panels to enable an extended mission.

Onboard, the two-man Soyuz 13 crew - Pyotr Klimuk and Valentin Lebedev - performed a number of experiments intended for the failed Salyut space stations.

Their tests included measurements of atmosphere and pollution in Earth's orbit. Crucially, the mission also included use of the Oasis 2 closed ecology system. The duo were able to successfully harvest protein, yielding 30 times the original bio-mass.

Medical tests were also carried out, including experiments to measure blood flow to the brain.

Commemorative SEIKO Spring Drive Spacewalk
Seiko's retail near-replica of Richard
Garriott's £54k space watch


Soyuz 13 were the second crew, after Soyuz 12, to wear spacesuits for re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

The the precaution was introduced following the disaster of Soyuz 11, whose three-man crew died while attempting re-entry.

Klimuk and Lebedev successfully landed back on Earth on December 26, amidst a heavy snow storm.

The Soyuz missions have continued to the present day, and memorabilia of Russian cosmonaut's brave endeavours have continued to make an impact on the auction block in 2009.

Earlier this year, a spacesuit designed for activities outside the safety of the spacecraft from the Soyuz missions sold for €87,000 in Paris.

Elsewhere, an unusual piece of memorabilia from a 2008 Soyuz flight sold. The Seiko GMT Spring Drive Spacewalk watch worn by the private space explorer and renowned video game designer, Richard Garriott, for 12 days in space aboard Soyuz TMA-13, brought $45,000 in New York.

Space collectors who missed out on Aleksandrovich's suit when it sold in Paris may be interested in another one-of-its-kind piece of space history: the flight suit worn by Apollo 11's Michael Collins.



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