Tragic death of a Soviet cosmonaut falling from space

Vladimir Komarov is an exceptionally talented Soviet cosmonaut. But he is best remembered for his death, nicknamed “the one who fell from the universe”.

In 1967, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Russian February Revolution, Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komanov was sent on a historic trip into space. But unfortunately, the trip ended in tragedy.

Although there are doubts that the Soyuz 1 mission is too rushed and problematic, we know this: Komarov has made many orbits around the Earth with his ship. himself, struggled to re-enter the atmosphere, and eventually fell to the ground, dying in a terrifying explosion.

Many details remain unclear in the events leading up to the tragedy, but his death is without a doubt a testament to the never-ending space race of the Cold War.

Tragic death of a Soviet cosmonaut falling from space
Cosmonaut Komanov in 1964, several years before his death. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Before becoming a Soviet cosmonaut, Vladimir Mikhaylovich Komarov was a boy with a passion for flight. Born in Moscow on March 16, 1927, since childhood Komarov has always been fascinated by aviation and planes.

Komarov joined the Soviet Air Force at the age of 15. In 1949, he became a pilot. Around the same time, Komarov married Valentina Yakovlevna Kiselyova, a woman who admired his love of the sky.

He once said: “Whoever has flown once, who has flown an airplane once, will never want to part with the plane or the sky.”

Tragic death of a Soviet cosmonaut falling from space
Vladimir Komarov with his wife Valentina and daughter Irina in 1967. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In 1959, he graduated from the Zhukovzky Air Force Engineering Institute. And long before that, Komarov had a burning desire to become an astronaut. He was selected as one of the first 18 people to be trained in this new field.

By now, World War II had become a distant memory, and it was clear that outer space was becoming the next battleground in the Cold War.

With Komarov, the sky seems to have no limits. In 1964, he made a personal mark when he succeeded with the Voskhod 1 mission – the first ship to carry a person into space. Although not the first person to fly into space – an honor associated with the name Yuri Gagarin – Komarov is respected for his talent and bravery.

Tragic death of a Soviet cosmonaut falling from space
A 1964 postage stamp commemorating Komanov’s success with the Voskhod flight.

As the 50th anniversary of the Russian February Revolution approached, the Soviet government was determined to make a special plan for 1967. And Komarov seemed to be the perfect man to execute it.

This mission sets a rather ambitious goal: The two spacecraft will arrive at a rendezvous point in low-Earth orbit. Komarov will park his ship right next to the other, then perform a spacewalk between the two ships.

Tragic death of a Soviet cosmonaut falling from space
Illustration of the Soyuz I spacecraft that Komanov piloted during the tragedy.

From there, the story started to get dark. According to the 2011 book “Starman”, Komarov’s Soyuz I spacecraft experienced “203 structural problems” prior to its flight.

As Komanov’s reserve pilot, the famous cosmonaut Gagarin is said to have argued for a postponement of the mission. He even wrote a 10-page memo that was passed on to Venyamin Russayev, a friend of the KGB (Soviet intelligence). But that record was ignored.

“Soviet designers faced political pressure about a new cosmic feat. The Soyuz was rushed into service before all problems were resolved,” writes author Francis French in “In the shadow of the Moon.”

Tragic death of a Soviet cosmonaut falling from space
Soviet cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov went hunting together. Photo: Twitter

In the dramatic retelling of “Starman,” Komarov feared he would die if he joined the mission, but refused to back down to protect Gagarin, a reserve pilot who was also his close friend.

But according to experts, the fact that Gagarin was chosen as a reserve pilot was only in name, because after becoming the first man to fly into space, he was considered a national treasure. Authorities are unlikely to send Gagarin on any mission if there is a risk.

On April 23, 1967, Komarov departed the fateful flight. In 24 hours, he orbited the Earth 16 times, but Komarov was unable to complete the mission’s ultimate goal.

That’s because one of the two solar panels powering the ship failed to turn on. Soviet authorities apparently aborted the launch of the second module and then directed Komarov to return to Earth.

Despite his mastery of skill, Komarov still had trouble handling his ship and was clearly having trouble braking the missile. It took him two more flights around the Earth before he was finally able to re-enter the atmosphere.

When it reached an altitude of 23,000 feet, Komarov’s parachute failed to open. It turned out that the slides of the slide were tangled when problems occurred during the return of the spacecraft to Earth’s atmosphere.

Tragic death of a Soviet cosmonaut falling from space
Vladimir Komarov’s body turned into a charred mass in the tragedy. Image: Wikimedia Commons

So on April 24, 1967, Komarov plunged to the ground and died in a terrifying explosion, making him the first person to die in a space flight.

According to the official recording of Komarov’s final moments (from the Russian State Archives), one of the last things he said to his colleagues on the ground was: “I feel great, everything is according to quiet”. After a while, he said, “Thank you for conveying all of that.”

After the fall from space, Komanov’s body was believed to be charred, and according to reports, only his heel bone was recognizable.

In 1971, a memorial plaque and sculpture titled “Fallen Astronaut” were placed on the Moon in memory of Komanov and the 13 Soviet and American cosmonauts who lost their lives. network while on duty.