November 10th, 2007 by
Did Soviet cosmonauts die in space in the early 1960s?
Any space buff worth his or her salt is keenly aware of the tragic fate of Vladimir Komarov, who died on April 24, 1967, due to parachute failure after the reentry of Soyuz 1.
But the question really is: were there events like this (or ones even more dramatic) earlier in the Space Race that the Soviet Union chose to hide from us?
As a child I heard a number of stories of amateur radio operators intercepting signals of cosmonauts dying or otherwise meeting some dark fate in their efforts to conquer space. The most dramatic I can recall was of a cosmonaut stranded in orbit, his heartbeat failing as he dies, the cabin depressurizing, and his lifeless body taken from the cabin by unknown means.
(Of course, how an amateur radio operator would be able to tell that last part is way beyond me.)
I’m sure these kind of stories helped prime my young mind to be distrustful of the official accounts of Soviet space activities, and lead to my imagination being seized in 1969 by the speculation that Luna 15 (an ostensibly unmanned probe sent to the Moon during the same time as America’s Apollo 11) was secretly a manned space shot. This in turn lead to a short story I wrote that, many years later, became the basis of the novel Red Moon.
Other than these rumors being good creepy stories to tell the kids just before bedtime (to make sure they never sleep again) is there anything to them?
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Tags: Apollo 11, Daniel Brenton, danielbrenton.com, David S. Michaels, James Oberg, Judica-Cordiglia, Luna 15, Moon Race, Red Moon, Soyuz 1, space flight, Sven Grahn, Torre Bert, Voskhod, Vostok
Category: Soviet Space History | 3 Comments »
October 18th, 2007 by
July 3 1969, 20:18 GMT Baikonur, Kazakhstan, USSR: The 344 foot tall N-1, the booster on which the Soviet Union has placed its hopes for defeating the United States in the race to the Moon, roars to life, its thirty rocket engines heaving the six million pound vehicle with aching slowness into the night sky, hammering the launch pad with hellish columns of burning kerosene and liquid oxygen, together blasting out over nine and a half million pounds of thrust.
A scant one-quarter second into the flight, something goes terribly wrong … a fragment of metal jams an oxidizer pump and causes it to explode, igniting a fire in the base of the first stage. The engines shut down and the behemoth scarcely clears the tower before it slides out of the sky into the pad and detonates with the force of a small tactical nuclear bomb.
* * *
How can an actual historical event like this — an event long hidden, to boot — not stir the imagination?
As a child who was absolutely fascinated by the Space Race, the heady days of the Apollo flights leading up to the Moon landing of July 20, 1969, were some of the most exciting times of my young life. The mocking, arrogantly trumpeted space successes of the USSR, America’s mortal enemy, were a faintly threatening counterpoint which added enormous drama to the endeavor.
With the launch of Luna 15, what was reportedly a probe designed to collect a small core-sample of the lunar surface and return it to the Earth, my adolescent attention was captured, and my suspicions were piqued. What are those damned Russians up to? I wondered. The small vehicle entered lunar orbit the day after Apollo 11 lifted off, though crashed (the official story stated an intentional crash landing) in Mare Crisium — the “Sea of Crisis” — several days later, roughly same the time astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin took their first walk on the lunar surface.
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Tags: Apollo 11, Buzz Aldrin, Daniel Brenton, danielbrenton.com, David S. Michaels, Luna 15, luna15.com, Moon Race, Neil Armstrong, Red Moon, space flight, Space Race
Category: Soviet Space History | 2 Comments »