When it was first created, Sputnik was feared worldwide as a symbol of the terrifyingly advanced technological achievements of the Soviet Union, but it was soon to be followed by the first manned mission into space also hatched by the Soviet Union. But was the USSR’s first manned spaceflight success also their first attempt? Records seem to indicate the Soviet Union may have attempted to put several of its citizens (of varying degrees of willingness) into space, and some of them never returned.
It seems the idea of rewriting history would be difficult today, but as many popular images from the era show, sometimes enemies would become phantoms, all records of their existence quickly being airbrushed out and records of their existence destroyed. In the end, these enemies of Lenin were made as ghosts with no record that they had ever breathed. It would be no challenge, then, to erase the existence of “failed” test pilots who had been sent into space and not survived the trip. The fact that early spaceflight had such a low mortality rate when it was little more than entering a machine with little more processing power than an egg-timer and returning to earth guided by less than a steering wheel is quite simply incredible. It seems counterintuitive that as technology became more refined and astronauts were more carefully trained that it would become suddenly a more dangerous profession.
The Judica-Cordiglia brothers, amateur ham radio operators who are famed for hacking NASA’s radio frequencies is also credited with being able to break the code on several of the Soviet Space program’s frequencies and even intercept a few very disturbing frantic signals from space sent apparently by doomed cosmonauts as their ships burned up in the atmosphere or drifted hopelessly into the eternal abyss of space. The eerie recordings from these signals exist to this day.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain, so too did the curtain of secrecy come crashing down. Potential atrocities in the field of biological and chemical contamination and warhead development were quickly published in books for years as a steady stream of information came about of the Soviet Union’s experiments in research and development of anything that would give it technical superiority over the United States. Along with a failed moon landing mission and several deaths while ships were within Earth’s atmosphere, no documents were ever found indicating there had ever been a human death in space. To this day there have been several “close calls” in space programs of all nationalities, and several accidents happening within the atmosphere, but the official story is that there have been no deaths happening in space or while in orbit around Earth. It’s a badge of honor that many space programs hold dear, but if these cosmonauts are ever found by future space faring adventurers, it will be a grim rewrite to history yet again.