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Space is full of surprises, but what the occupants of Soviet space station Salyut 7 claimed they saw in the summer of 1984 was strange even by space standards. On day 155 of the mission Commander Oleg Atkov and cosmonauts Vladimir Solovyov and Leonid Kizim reported that the space station was bathed in the most dazzling orange light that momentarily blinded them. They wondered if there had been a fire or explosion on board. When their vision returned they looked out of the portholes and informed ground control that they  could see faces.

Outside the spacecraft hovered seven “angels.” Their faces and bodies looked human, but they had wings. The angels kept up with the speed and movement of the space station for about 10 minutes before suddenly vanishing. The cosmonauts conceded that they might have gone mad for a few moments and, after a few days, were convinced they had suffered a group hallucination.

Then, on day 167, the cosmonauts were joined by their three colleagues from the Soyuz T-12 spacecraft, Svetlana Savitskaya, Igor Volk and Vladimir Dzhanibekov. Again the space station was bathed in bright orange light, and the seven angels reappeared – each one, the witnesses said, “as big as an airliner.” All six cosmonauts reported they saw the “smiling” angels.

When considering only the first crew, the episode could be written off as resulting from the stress of long-term space travel. Indeed, the crew went onto set a record of 237 days in space. But such an explanation could not apply to the second crew – it was soon after their arrival at the space station that the “angels” appeared again.

How far can we believe this extraordinary story? Aviation writer Martin Caidin says the incidents took place in 1985, but the flights in question had returned to earth by that time. Caidin heard the story from a French news correspondent, who in turn obtained the details from a person he considers an absolutely reliable source – a former engineer in the Soviet manned space programme who had since moved to the United States.


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