Feoktistov served in the Soviet army in World War II and narrowly avoided death after being captured by the Germans. Commanded to stand at the edge of a pit, he was to be executed by firing squad along with other prisoners. However, the bullet only grazed his throat, and Feoktistov was later able to crawl out of the pit of corpses and make his way to Soviet lines.
He graduated from the Bauman Moscow Higher Technical School as an engineer, and would later finish a doctorate in physics. He joined Mikhail Tikhonravov's OKB (design bureau)), and in 1955 formed part of the team that would go on to design the Sputnik, Vostok, Voskhod, and Soyuz spacecraft under the leadership of Sergey Korolev. During this time, Feoktistov also worked on a design for an ion powered spacecraft capable of taking humans to Mars.
In 1964 Feoktistov was selected as part of a group of engineers for cosmonaut training, and was eventually assigned to the multi-disciplinary Voskhod 1 crew. His training for further space missions was cancelled for medical reasons.
Feoktistov continued his space engineering work though, and later became head of the Soviet space design bureau that designed the Salyut and Mir space stations. He is presently (2003) deputy head of the mission control centre at Baikonur.