It was decided that henceforth, cosmonauts would wear pressure suits for launch and the return to Earth. Also, a system was installed to automatically pump air into the descent module in the event of decompression. Additionally, the ventilation valves were modified so a premature opening would cause them to re-close automatically. Of course these changes meant the spacecraft could only accommodate two cosmonauts.
The recovery team quickly opened the hatch and were shocked to find the men motionless, as if asleep or unconscious.
Volkov transmitted to Flight Control: “The hatch is not hermetically sealed! … What can we do? … What can we do?”
Just before the start of another communication session, Volkov noticed a smell of smoke from somewhere at the rear of the station. As soon as communication with the ground was established, he reported: “Aboard the station is ‘the curtain’!”
Dobrovolsky wrote in his diary, “Some days were a nightmare. There was a general absence of everything: no interesting things, no happiness, the monotonous sound of the ventilators, strong smells, numerous experiments. It seemed to me that Flight Control simply wished to test our endurance.”
Volkov radioed “Zarya, wait! Yantar 3 is in Soyuz. Don’t start until Yantar 3 has returned to the Salyut! There is a strong smell in Salyut! He will put on a mask and go in again!”