Perhaps They Didn’t Want to Admit to the Lost Soviet Cosmonauts
The space race was a dangerous challenge between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that pushed engineers and technology to their limits. This was a time during the Cold War when it might not have been so easy to admit to the inevitable failures of getting into space and back. This article questions whether or not there were lost Soviet cosmonauts that the Soviets swept under the rug.
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin forever put his name into the history books on 12 April 1961 by becoming the first man to circumnavigate Earth orbit in an artificial satellite. The Soviet fighter pilot turned Cosmonaut became an international celebrity after piloting his spacecraft, Vostock 1, once around the Earth and safely landing back in the Soviet Union. No mystery there surely. Italian brothers Achille and Giovanni Judica-Cordiglia may have something to say about that.
Italian Ham Radio Picks Up Strange Events
The brothers had no intrinsic input into either Soviet or American Space programs. Instead, they were ham radio operators that claimed modest fame by picking up early Soviet space communications on their equipment. Signals from Sputnik meant for Soviet Mission Control also ended up broadcasting across many frequencies. The heartbeat of Laika, the Soviet dog blasted into space in another early Russian success, was also supposedly picked up by the brothers’ aerials.
An East German radio observatory announced that on 28 November 1960, they had intercepted a strange radio transmission on Soviet frequencies that both brothers were eager to hear for themselves. When they tuned in, what they were listening to unnerved them. The signal appeared as though it was a hand-keyed SOS message that was becoming fainter and fainter. If what was heard was genuine and accurate, then it would seem as though a manned Soviet probe had suffered some sort of malfunction and drifted further and further from safety.
Heart Attack on “Unmanned” Probe?
Early in 1961, the brothers received another transmission which, according to their cardiologist father, was the sound of someone in the midst of a cardiac arrest. They didn’t hear any words, just someone’s labored breathing and a heartbeat that appeared to be declining. The Russian Federation made an official announcement two days later that an unmanned probe had failed to properly re-enter Earth orbit. The Cordiglia brothers were on hand to record and participate in Gagarin’s moment of history, albeit in a small way. Their pride must have been buoyed immensely by hearing Gagarin’s voice from low orbit, but it wasn’t to last for very long.
A month later, they picked up another Soviet transmission that was made by another Cosmonaut, only the voice this time around was a female one. The lads must have been horrified by what was said and unable to do anything but listen.
Come in… come in… come in… Listen! Come in! Talk to me! I am hot! I am hot! Come in! What? Forty-five? What? Fifty? Yes. Yes, yes, breathing. Oxygen, oxygen… I am hot. This… isn’t this dangerous?Transmission begins now. Forty-one. Yes, I feel hot. I feel hot, it’s all… it’s all hot. I can see a flame! I can see a flame! I can see a flame! Thirty-two… thirty-two. Am I going to crash? Yes, yes I feel hot… I am listening, I feel hot, I will re-enter. I’m hot!
At first, the voice was a calm and professional one but grew more and more desperate with each passing comment. This transmission ended with the assumption that another attempt at re-entry failed.
Some Admitted Ground Failures
Even with its Cold War reputation, the Soviets did admit to a series of accidents in the early days of space exploration that proved fatal. Most, if not all, were incidents that occurred on the ground. But there may have been some lost Soviet cosmonauts that they didn’t want to talk about. Gagarin gets the credit for becoming the first person to achieve stable Earth orbit and return safely. But there are those who even doubt this!
Some insist that the true pioneer of the space race is actually Vladimir Ilyushin. Ilyushin was another Soviet fighter pilot who supposedly reached Earth orbit about a week before Gagarin. However, a malfunction in his capsule’s navigation systems meant he returned to Earth in China and not Russia. The Chinese took him prisoner and kept him captive for an entire year. Since Soviet launches were regularly conducted in secret, his entire mission was treated in the same way.
Even Gagarin himself was the subject of some conspiracy theories. Not about his space flight, but the crash which claimed his life in 1968. According to declassified documents, the KGB conducted one of four investigations into the cause of the crash. Among the theories were a bird strike, mid-air collision and oxygen deprivation due to an open air vent being inadvertently left open by a previous crew. Subsequently, the KGB concluded that inaccurate or outdated weather data had a factor in the crash and they criticized the airbase personnel.
Was Vladimir Ilyushin the first person to achieve Earth orbit? Were there missions that lost Soviet cosmonauts that we don’t know about? If so, who really was the first person into space?