DOLGOV, Pyotr I. (1920 - 1962)

Pyotr Ivanovich Dolgov Was a colonel of the Soviet Air Force, that was involved in parachute testing and helped to build scape systems for cosmonauts. He was killed while carrying out a high-altitude parachute jump in he framework of the VOLGA program.

Dolgov was born in 1920 into a peasant family of the village of Epiphany (now the village of Debt) of the Penza region . At the age of 14, he went to Michurinsk, where he enrolled in the school of sewing. After graduating he received a diploma of cutter in 1938, and was assigned to a Moscow factory, where he started working on his speciality but after a while he shifted duty as truck driver.

In 1940, he was drafted into the Red Army and served initially in the amphibious forces in the city of Khabarovsk, and later during the Second World War, in the airborne troops of the army. During his war duties and for services in battle at the front, he received two Orders of the Red Banner, two Orders of the Red Star and several medals. After the war, in 1946, while living in the city of Frunze, he married and later moved with his family to Moscow when he continued his career as parachutist being assigned to the parachute rescue division of the Soviet Air Force's Flight Test Centre. Also he was champion of the Central Asian republics of Greco-Roman wrestling.

During the 50's and 60's he was heavily involved in the testing and design of parachute systems and aircraft escape systems from supersonic aircraft. Later he turn his attention to testing capsule ejection and parachute landing systems for future Vostok flights and Soviet cosmonauts under the so called "Volga" program that used stratospheric balloons and a sealed capsule to perform this tests. In one of the jumps in June 1961 Dolgov established a new world record for the highest parachute opening at 48.671 feet.

In March 1962, having finished a series of tests Dolgov along with Major Yevgeny Andreev started his training to perform the biggest mission of the program: to test spacesuits and a new non-explosive type of Vostok ejection seat from 80.000 ft, almost in space conditions. This would be the 1409th jump of Dolgov.

The flight was performed in November 1, 1962, at the Volsk airfield in Saratov. The balloon and capsule were released at 7:44 am and after two hours and a half of ascent they reached an altitude of 83.523 feet. From that height the first to leave the capsule using the new ejection system was Andreyev, followed minutes after by Dolgov whom would leave the capsule on his own. Apparently at the moment of the jump, Dolgov hit a protruding object near the border of the hatch, making a hole in his helmet merelly of the size of a pin head (as can be seen in the last image at left) but big enough to let the air and pressure of his Sokol suit to escape, killing him while falling

Although the automatic parachute system worked well, when Dolgov touched ground he was dead.

Initially the military tried to bury Dolgov in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, but his widow refused as she wanted to bury his husband close to his home. He finally rested in the local cemetery of his home town of Chkalovskaya. Among the guests at the funeral were the cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov.

In december that year, the soviet politburó awarded posthumously to Dolgov with the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union" and the next year a park in the city of Dolgoprudny -home of the Soviet balloon program- was named after him.

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