The dead Russian cosmonauts

When the Soviet Union launched the first earth satellite, Sputnik 1, the shock in the Western world was huge. In fact, the aftermath of this shock is still noticeable, because what is now known as the internet, developed from a network of computer connections between scientific and military institutions, the so-called DARPA-net, constructed specifically to promote research that would countermand the apparent Soviet threat signalled by the launch.

The shock was so great, because everyone in the West had assumed that the Western system was superior in very respect tot the communist one, and even if this was only half true, the almost completely destruction of the Russian infrastructure during the Second World War would prohibit any noticeable advance in the field of science and technology. And while they had fought well in this war, the capacity of Eastern Europeans in this field was silently considered inferior to those of Western Europeans.

So while America had grasped the importance of developing a rocket and space industry, there had been no real urgency in their efforts. Until Sputnik 1 rocketed on the scene. Initially they met with little success, but by changing team from the navy to the army, led by Werner von Braun, they soon were well on the way in what was immediately called a space race.

It was crystal clear to everybody that the next big step in what was soon called the space race would be the launch of a manned satellite. The American progress could be followed easily, since their program was almost completely open. The Russians were suffering under the secrecy that is one of the traits of their communist government, for a large part driven by the fear of having a failure in public.

So a lot of people were expecting the launch of a Soviet cosmonaut, and not aware of their actual progress. In the heat of the Cold War this was fertile ground for rumours. Many a Russian cosmonaut has perished in this period. All kinds of people came with prove, from astronomers at Jodrell Bank to amateurs having all kind of radio equipment listening to Russian satellite communications. One team was specifically sure about their claim, because they had heard voices, and also purported they this poor soul had gone mad, since they also heard singing (VARA TV Guide, nr. 40-2007, translation by the author):

Feature announcement: Arte (European Culture Channel), 06-10-2007, 20:45 hours.


When the space race between de US and the Soviet Union had started, two Italian radio amateurs came upon the idea to listen into the signals of space projectiles. Creepy episode: just some weeks before the launch of Juri Gagarin as the first man into orbit around the earth, the Italians thought to have caught the sounds of muffled panting. 

Since the fall of the communist government, most of the Soviet space program has become known. There have been victims, even many of them, in two launch failures, all concerning ground personal. Four cosmonauts have died while on mission, but this all happened much later. No cosmonaut has died while on mission before the first successful flight of Yuri Gagarin. So all of the reports dating from this time were lies, simple propaganda. There is few funny detail: one of the last tests before the actual flight of Gagarin had involved communication test, with recordings of a man’s voice, and for some reason also a male choir. So the amateurs may have listened well, but their interpretation was biased.
    They did hear what they wanted to hear.
    And they did hear this specific interpretation, because the general atmosphere was that this was the thing that one wanted to hear: the communists were the villains and villains must fail.
   And very little has changed since.

For other sources of "lost cosmonauts" stories, see e.g. here uitleg of detail and here uitleg of detail .

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