The Soviet Union being a secretive place, it’s not surprising that many conspiracy theories have formed about the Soviet space programme. In particular, there are many claims that Soviet space accidents were covered up by the Soviet authorities.
Given the Soviet government’s general tendency towards not releasing bad news until many years after the event, if at all, it’s not surprising that these theories have gained widespread credence. However, there is little evidence to support any of the supposed cover-ups.
This article contains a brief overview of some of the main lost cosmonaut theories.
Was Gagarin really the first man in space?
There are many who believe that Vladimir Ilyushin was actually the first man in space. He flew into space on 7 April 1961, five days before Gagarin’s flight.
The theory is that Ilyushin’s flight was successful, but that his descent was not as well controlled as it could have been, and instead of landing inside the Soviet Union’s borders, he landed in China. The flight, therefore, wasn’t publicised by the Soviets.
This theory is detailed in a few documentaries, including ‘The Cosmonaut Cover-Up’, and ‘Fallen Idol: The Yuri Gagarin Conspiracy’, both by Elliot Haimoff, but has been fairly comprehensively disproved.
Two Italian brothers – Achille and Gian Judica-Cordiglia – are alleged to have made a number of recordings in the 1960s of Soviet space missions that were never recorded in official Soviet logs. In particular, they have recorded a space capsule containing a cosmonaut going off course, a female cosmonaut who died on re-entry, and a number of calls for help, both voice calls over radio, and an SOS call in Morse code.
The full story of the Judica-Cordiglia’s recordings, mostly taken at the Torre Bert listening station, can be found on the Fortean Times website.
Did the Soviet Union launch a moon mission?
The Soviet Union had a number of programmes designed to send probes and, eventually, a manned mission to the moon. The projects, not officially acknowledged until the 1990s, were cancelled once the success of the American Apollo moon landings was clear.
However, there are claims that the Soviets actually tried to launch mission to the moon less than two weeks before the launch of Apollo 11. The mission failed when the N1 rocket carrying a Soyuz 7K-L3 capsule exploded on the launch pad.
Igor Fedrov – the last Soviet Cosmonaut
A rumour spread around the United States in the late 1990s that when the Soviet Union collapsed, a cosmonaut was stranded on the Mir space station. In the chaos, he couldn’t communicate properly with mission control, and (depending on the version) he was either stranded until well after the Soviet Union’s demise or he died attempting to fly back to Earth without guidance from mission control.
This story was the inspiration for a film called, simply, Kosmonaut by Stefan Faldbakken, in which main character Igor Fedrov is stranded in space during the August coup and dies attempting to return to earth.