For a short time he was the most famous man in the world. And the envy of the western 'powers'. He pre-empted even the fictional Capt James T. Kirk and boldly went where no man - or human being of either sex - had been before. Into Space.
Then the first Astronaut, Yuri Gagarin, died in a tragedy.
In an age of secrets some few matters are best kept secret and far too much is that should be known. The Soviets were and are just as paranoid about 'secrets' as the best of Obama's mob can do today.
No-one was allowed to know how he died.
On the morning of April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin lifted off aboard Vostok 1 to become the first human in space, spending 108 minutes in orbit before landing in the Saratov region of the USSR.
The soft-spoken and well-mannered Gagarin, just 27 years old at the time, became an instant hero, representing the success of the Soviet space program (Alan Shepard’s shorter, suborbital flight happened less than a month later) to the entire world.
Gagarin later went on to become a director for the Cosmonaut Training Center and was preparing for a second space flight. Tragically, he was killed when a MiG-15 aircraft he was piloting crashed on March 27, 1968.
Gagarin’s death has long been shrouded by confusion and controversy, with many theories proposed as to the actual cause.
Now, 45 years later, details about what really happened to cause the death of the first man in space have come out — from the first man to go out on a spacewalk, no less.
Officially the cause of the crash was said to be the ill-fated result of an attempt to avoid a foreign object during flight training in their MiG-15UTI, a two-seated, dual-controlled training version of the widely-produced Soviet aircraft. “Foreign objects” could be anything, from balloons to flocks of birds to airborne debris to… well, you see where one could go with that. (And over the years many have.)
The manoeuver led to the aircraft going into a tailspin and crashing, killing both men.
But experienced pilots like Gagarin and Seryogin shouldn’t have lost control of their plane like that — not according to Leonov, who has been trying to release details of the event for the past 20 years…
if only that the pilots’ families might know the truth.
Now, a declassified report, which Leonov has been permitted to share, shows what actually happened during the training flight: an “unauthorized Su-15 fighter” flew too close to Gagarin’s MiG, disrupting its flight and sending it into a spin.
“In this case, the pilot didn’t follow the book, descending to an altitude of 450 meters,” Leonov says in the RT.com article. “While afterburning the aircraft reduced its echelon at a distance of 10-15 meters in the clouds, passing close to Gagarin, turning his plane and thus sending it into a tailspin — a deep spiral, to be precise — at a speed of 750 kilometers per hour.”
The pilot of the Su-15 — who is still alive — was was not named, a condition of Leonov’s permission to share the information.
According to first woman in space Valentina Tereshkova, who was officially grounded by the government after Gagarin’s death to avoid a loss of another prominent cosmonaut, the details come as a bittersweet relief.
“The only regret here is that it took so long for the truth to be revealed,” Tereshkova said. “But we can finally rest easy.”
States keep secrets. They do not allow anyone of their subject people to have any. The State has to know everything.
"If you have nothing to hide, you will let us look in your bag, in your computer, your telephone records. Nothing Personal"
I hope his family can now rest easier. But perhaps they, if no-one else are entitled to ask why they had to wait so long for a Truth that was so personal to them.
Those gathered in the Spirit bar raise a glass to the memory
of an heroic Human Being.