Mean while, at the Soviet mission control, the ground team had drawn the same dismal conclusion. One ground controller, in despair, buried his face in his hands. A military man took off his hat, dropped three rubles into it and passed it around. The ground team was taking a collection for Boris Volynov's presumed widow, Tamara.
Tamara and Boris had been friends since childhood. Tamara had worked as a pediatrician and a surgeon. They married in 1957. Now, she was taking care of the couple's two young children.
Suddenly, Volynov got lucky. Soyuz 5's situation changed; the Equipment Module broke free. The heat had burned through the connectors from that module. Equally important, the spacecraft's hatch did not fail. Soyuz 5's Descent Module spun around, and the heat shield moved to its proper position. Volynov would not burn up.
He was, however, still approaching the ground at an alarming speed. The parachutes deployed—imperfectly—slowing the craft somewhat, but not nearly enough. When Soyuz 5 hit the ground, hundreds of miles off course, the retro-rockets designed to cushion the landing failed to fire.
Even though the spacecraft landed in a snow bank, it still hit hard. Volynov survived. He was badly shaken and lost several teeth. He was bleeding profusely. And his troubles were not yet over.
Despite having grown up in Siberia, which he loved, Volynov was not prepared for what happened next. He opened the hatch and found himself in a desolate freezing landscape, with the temperature at minus 40 degrees fahrenheit. Volynov saw a thin plume of smoke in the distance. He walked toward it.
Hours later, a rescue team located Soyuz 5, but not its pilot. Following a trail of blood stains in the snow, the team came to a peasant's cabin and found Volynov had been protected and cared for by a kindly stranger. The cosmonaut asked his rescuers, “Is my hair gray?”
Proud of its successes and secretive about its failures, the Soviet government ordered Volnynov to keep the problems of Soyuz 5 to himself. There would be a parade, celebrating the latest Soviet space achievement.
Volynov participated in the parade, along with other cosmonauts and Premier Brezhnev. Even here, he wasn't safe. An assassin aiming for Brezhnev fired his gun wildly, missing Brezhnev but hitting the car in which Volynov was riding. The driver was killed, but the cosmonaut was uninjured. The gunman was quickly apprehended.