Why did cosmonauts land on land while astronauts landed on water?

In this article Cecil states that cosmonauts were sometimes stranded for a few days after landing. What prevented them from opening the capsule and say, hitchhike home?

No roads? Setting down where you’re not going to crush any buildings is kinda the whole point. Plus, it’d kind of suck to land in the freeway and get plowed under by a semi.

As is traditional, a link to the article under discussion.

As to the actual question, my WAG is that they don’t have that many roads in Siberia. And hitchhiking where there are no roads (or traffic, in the event that the capsule landed within walking distance of a road) is kind of pointless.

You’re in the middle of nowhere. You have valuable scientific data and equipment to guard from marauding reactionary nomadic pawns of the capitalists. You can’t abandon your post.

How about being hundreds of miles from anything resembling civilization? Like roads. How about being surrounded by wild animals that might eat you? Seriously - they carry guns for just that possibility. How about being kinda weak and wobbly, and not up to hiking across the lawn to pick up the newspaper, nevermind an overland trek?

Vokshod 2 (March 1965, first-ever spacewalk) landed 240 miles off course in a wild area of the Siberian Urals. The crew didn’t know where they were, and Mission Control didn’t know either. By day 2, they’d been located and a rescue party skied in with food and supplies and built a makeshift cabin. On day 3 the cosmonauts skied out to the closest helicopter landing site, miles away, and returned to civilization that way.

Siberia is big, and it’s empty, and it was even emptier in the '60’s. It also got to -20 degrees. Trying to walk home would get you dead of exposure or animal attacks before you’d been out more than a day.


Get ye flask.

Did the Soviet space agency provide flasks? Because vodka at -20, F or C (not much difference at that point), might be chilled just right.

Well, I think the reason that the Russians came down on land, and we came down on water is because they had a lot of land area, and we had (and have) a huge navy with aircraft carriers and helicopters that could relatively easily recover sea landings.

Plus, there’s a lot more ocean to splash down in than there is continental US.

The Soviets wanted control.

Controlled news access, controlled physical access.

At sea, this can be difficult.

In Siberia–100% easy.

In Soviet Union being stranded for few days is your vacation time. Don’t forget sunscreen!

Funny story; on at least a few Soyuz flights, there were backup landing sites (at least, places they’d aim for if they had to make an emergency reentry and landing) outside of Russia, in the Ukraine, in France…and in Texas.

In Russia, water land on YOU!

Been a while since I read the original article on this, but besides the things mentioned here (i.e. no roads, control, etc), I seem to recall that it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to land on land (especially when you have lots of it as the Russians did) than to land on water, so that was also a factor.



That’s the reason. This blog covers the history of the various landing technologies examined by the early Soviet and American space missions at some length if your interested. The basic reason for why the US went for water landings and the Soviet’s went for ground recoveries is because there was a huge amount of error in determining where an unguided capsule would come down, and so you needed to aim for a really large target. The US didn’t have a large enough expanse of empty land to shoot for, and so they had to settle for the more expensive water recovery, while the Soviet Union covered some sizable percentage of the Earth’s land area and had a population density smaller then Saudi Arabia, and so could use the cheaper method without worrying about missing or ending up hitting someones house.

Alaska ain’t big enough?
Powers &8^]

Hopefully this is a joke. If not, you might not be aware of this but one of the parameters that NASA was laboring under was that the astronauts actually had to survive the landing. Without that, then sure…Alaska would have worked fine. :stuck_out_tongue:


Alaska is colder than Siberia, or is Alaska too far north to hit?

Neither. Terrain. Alaska doesn’t have an equivalent to the huge steppes of Siberia in which to land in. Much of it is pretty rugged and mountainous and isn’t well suited to such a landing…not if you want the crew to survive.


Ah, thanks.

Astronauts didn’t land on water. They splashed down in water. The cosmonauts had no choice but to land on land, the alternative being a splat.