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Challenger-Like Disaster Averted, Soviet Editor Says

November 22, 1987|United Press International

MOSCOW — The editor of a Soviet magazine said on Saturday that an emergency system triggered only six seconds before liftoff had saved a crew of cosmonauts from a Challenger-like disaster.

Vitaly A. Korotich, editor of the magazine Ogonyok, mentioned the episode in a Radio Moscow interview about the problems he has encountered getting permission to publish controversial material.

Although he said he had finally received permission to publish the information learned in an interview with veteran cosmonaut Georgi Grechko, the actual magazine article last January contained only a single vague line about the incident.

"A Soviet space craft was saved on its launch pad, six seconds before countdown ended, by an emergency system," Korotich said. "If the system had failed, we could have had a tragedy on the scale of the Challenger disaster."

Although his comments provided more detail than previously had been known, there was still no indication of what exactly happened or when the near disaster occurred.

The Jan. 28, 1986, explosion of the American space shuttle Challenger shortly after blast off killed the crew of seven. Soviet launches routinely carry two cosmonauts at a time into space.

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