The Soviet's new Soyuz ("union") program dovetailed with the conclusion of Project Gemini. The Soyuz craft was designed for docking and for taking cosmonauts to the Moon.
April 1967, Soyuz 1 was to rendezvous with a second vehicle, Soyuz 2. The flight, piloted by Vladimir Komorav, ended in tragedy when Soyuz 1 developed serious control problems early in the flight. Its landing parachute failed to open, and
Vladimir Komorav was killed.
Docking attempts continued with the launch of
Soyuz 2 and 3 in October
1968. This attempt failed, but both spacecraft returned safely to Earth. Not until
January 1969 did Soyuz 4 and 5 achieve a successful docking and crew transfer from one spacecraft to the other. By then, however, the Americans were orbiting 1 astronauts around the Moon.