Two Soviet cosmonauts who spent a record-breaking 366 days in space landed safely in Soviet central Asia Wednesday after a computer failure in their space capsule delayed their return by three hours.
The Tass news agency said the Cosmos ship Soyuz TM-6 with cosmonauts Vladimir Titov, Musa Manarov and French astronaut Jean-Loup Chretien landed at 12:57 (2:57 a.m. MST) 112 miles southeast of the city of Djezkazgan.The two cosmonauts and Chretien, who joined Titov and Manarov in the Soviet Mir space station Nov. 26, circled Earth twice as a new program was punched into the TM-6's computer. The spacecraft then made the soft-earth landing 185 miles away from the original landing site of Arkalik in the plains of Soviet central Asia.
"The return went very well," Gen. Alexei Leonov, the first Soviet cosmonaut to walk in space, told Western reporters. "The first thing they told us on the radio was they are feeling well."
The landing was a triumph for Titov and Manarov, who smashed world records for space endurance by living in space for just over a year.
Titov, Manarov and Chretien, strapped into special chairs to cushion the impact, were immediately whisked from the spacecraft and into hastily erected heated tents.
As soon as preliminary medical checks were carried out, the three were to be flown to Moscow for a full physical examination to determine the effects of a year of weightlessness on the two Soviet cosmonauts.
According to Tass, the three-hour delay was caused by "a disorder of the onboard automatic systems."
Michel Tognini, the backup French spaceman, told reporters the delay was necessary to allow the cosmonauts to program new landing coordinates into the computer.
"When a computer glitch occurs, the cosmonaut has to physically punch in landing coordinates, retro rocket information and compass points," he said. "It all went very well. It was a problem they had no trouble coping with."
It was the first time in six years that Western journalists were permitted to be on the scene of a manned Soviet mission, a Soviet space official said. The last time was in 1982 when Chretien completed the first-ever joint French-Soviet manned mission.