In 1966, Titov enrolled at the Higher Air Force College in Chernihiv in Ukraine, graduating in 1970. Until 1974, he served at the College as a pilot-instructor and was responsible for the graduation of twelve student pilots. He later served as a flight commander with the air regiment where the cosmonauts carry out flying practice. He has flown 10 different types of aircraft, has logged more than 1,400 hours flying time, and holds the qualifications of Military Pilot, 1st Class, and Test Pilot, 3rd Class.
Titov was selected as a cosmonaut in 1976, and in September 1981 was paired with Gennady Strekalov. The two men served as the back-up crew for Soyuz T-5 in 1982 and Soyuz T-9 in 1983. A veteran of five missions, Titov served as commander on Soyuz T-8 and Soyuz T-10-1 in 1983 and Soyuz TM-4 in 1987, and flew on the crew of STS-63 in 1995 and STS-86 in 1997. He has logged a total of 18 hours, 48 minutes of EVA, and has spent a total of 387 days, 52 minutes, 18 seconds in space (including the Soyuz T-10-1 launch abort).[clarification needed]
Titov made his first space flight on April 20, 1983, as commander of Soyuz T-8. He and Strekalov had been specifically trained to repair the faulty Salyut 7 solar array. He was supposed to dock with Salyut 7, but once in orbit the Soyuz rendezvous radar antenna failed to deploy properly. Several attitude control maneuvers at high rates were made but failed to swing the boom out. (The postflight inquiry later discovered that the antenna had been torn off when the Soyuz payload shroud separated.) With FCC permission, the crew attempted a rendezvous using only an optical sight and ground radar inputs for guidance. During the final approach, which was made in darkness, Titov believed that the closing speed was too great. He therefore attempted a braking maneuver, but felt that the two spacecraft were still closing too fast. He aborted the rendezvous to avoid a crash, and no further attempts were made before the three men returned to Earth after a flight lasting just 2 days, 17 minutes, 48 seconds
Titov and Strekalov were then scheduled for launch on board what should have been Soyuz T-10 on September 27, 1983. However, a valve in the propellant line failed to close at T−90 seconds, causing a large fire to start at the base of the launch vehicle only one minute before launch. The fire quickly engulfed the rocket, and the automatic abort sequence failed as the wires involved burned through. Two launch controllers manually aborted the mission by sending radio commands from the launch blockhouse. This was accomplished 12 seconds after the fire began. The Soyuz descent module was pulled clear by the launch escape system, and after being subjected to 15–17 G's, the crew landed safely some 2.5 miles (4 km) from the launch vehicle, which apparently exploded seconds after the Soyuz separated. The two men were given a medical check-up, but had sustained no injuries during their brief flight which lasted 5 minutes, 30 seconds.
Titov was next assigned to command Soyuz TM-2. He and his flight engineer, Alexander Serebrov, were scheduled for a long-duration flight on board Mir 1. Six days prior to launch, due to doubts about Serebrov's health, they were replaced by the back-up crew. Titov continued training for a long-duration mission, and in April 1987 was paired with Musa Manarov. Later that year, he graduated from the Yuri Gagarin Air Force Academy while continuing his work at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.
His next assignment came as the commander of Soyuz TM-4, which launched on December 21, 1987. Together with Musa Manarov and Anatoli Levchenko, he linked up with the orbiting Mir 1 space station and her crew. After a short period of joint work, Romanenko, Alexandrov, and Levchenko returned to Earth handing over the space station to Titov and Manarov. The two men settled down to a long program of scientific experiments and observations, and played host to the visiting Soyuz TM-5 and TM-6 missions. At the end of the Soyuz TM-6 visit, one of its crew, Dr. Valeri Polyakov, remained on board with Titov and Manarov.