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Pin about Kosmos 186 and 188.
The two Soviet spacecraft made the first fully automated space docking in the history of space exploration in 1967. Officially, both made a soft landing in a predetermined region of the Soviet Union. According to Boris Chertok “one of the vehicles was destroyed by the emergency destruction system”.
Because of the lethal outcome of both the Soyuz 1 and the US Apollo 1 missions earlier that year it was decided to proceed with unmanned flights first. But because the Soviet Union had no ground stations outside its own territory, this meant the docking had to be done fully automated.
After the first attempt failed, the second attempt succeeded over the South Atlantic. However, this docking was not entirely successful either, the modules were mechanically docked, but not electrically. Also, the manoeuvre had cost more fuel than anticipated. This mission proved it possible to launch smaller parts and assemble them in space, thus eliminating the need for exceedingly large rockets for larger undertakings like a space station.