Cosmonaut in Orbit 6 Mos. Ailing, to Return to Earth

Associated Press

A Soviet cosmonaut who has spent nearly six months in orbit will return to Earth next week because he shows signs of what might be a serious heart problem, officials said today.

The announcement about Alexander I. Laveikin came shortly after a three-man crew successfully docked its Soyuz TM-3 capsule with the Mir space station, where Laveikin and Yuri V. Romanenko have been living since February.

The capsule blasted off from Soviet Kazakhstan on Wednesday with two Soviet cosmonauts and Syria’s first space traveler. It linked up with the Mir station over the Soviet-Mongolian frontier about 7:30 a.m. Moscow time.

Deputy Flight Director Viktor D. Blagov told reporters in Moscow that Laveikin, a 35-year-old flight engineer who is on his first space mission, had developed an abnormal electrocardiogram.


Reluctant to Leave

“It may be serious, it may not be serious,” Blagov said. “Every normal human being has these changes. But if they repeat, doctors start to think twice.”

Laveikin apparently was reluctant to come back to Earth, but officials decided to replace him with the TM-3’s flight engineer, Alexander P. Alexandrov, 44, while they have the chance.

The next Soviet manned space mission is scheduled next year.


“Although he says he is not tired and believes he can work further, this is the time to take him off,” Blagov said.

Blagov stressed that the removal of Laveikin does not necessarily mean that he is ill. He said the change in Laveikin’s heart pattern may have been caused by weightlessness.