The remains of the astronaut Vladimir Komarov, a man who fell from space, 1967

Mankind's way to the stars had its unsung heroes. One of them was Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. His space flight on Soyuz 1 made him the first Soviet cosmonaut to fly into outer space more than once, and he became the first human to die on a space mission—the Soyuz 1 space capsule crashed after re-entry on 24 April. He was killed when it happened. , 1967, due to failure of the parachute.

However, because he died when the capsule fell into the ground, he is not considered the first human death in outer space. The charred remains of Komarov are being seen by Soviet authorities during the funeral of his uncovered coffin in the photo above. Only a chipped heel bone survived the accident.

All this predicted tragedy began with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Soviet Union, and the government sought something bigger than the space program. Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev decided to stage a spectacular mid-space rendezvous between two Soviet spacecraft.

The plan was for two Soviet space vehicles to launch into space and perform dramatic orbital dockings that would allow astronauts to move between ships.

The first capsule to be launched will be Soyuz 1, with Komarov inside. The next day, a second vehicle (Soyuz 2) will take off with two additional astronauts; The two vehicles would meet, dock, Komarov would crawl from one vehicle to another, exchange places with an ally, and come home to another ship. Brezhnev made it clear that he wanted this to happen.

Komarov was selected to command Soyuz 1 in 1967, with Yuri Gagarin as his backup cosmonaut. Both knew the space capsule was not safe to fly, but everyone in the space program was intimidated by Brezhnev's reaction if the mission was delayed or scrubbed. Komarov told friends that he knew he would probably die.

But he would not hold back because he did not want Gagarin to die. Vladimir Komarov was among Gagarin's best friends. Their families often met together, and on the rare times when both men were free, they would go hunting together.

They were best friends who were also part of a very small fraternity of men who killed themselves to travel to space.

Gagarin suggested that the mission should be postponed. The question was: who will tell Brezhnev? Gagarin wrote a 10-page memorandum and gave it to his best friend in the KGB, Veniamin Rusayev, but no one dared to send it a chain of command. With less than a month before launch, Komarov realized that postponement was not an option. One of Komarov's friends in the KGB suggested that he should refuse to fly.

According to the book Starman (by Jamie Doran and Pierce Bizzoni), Komarov replied: "If I don't make this flight, they'll send backup pilots instead". That was Yuri Gagarin.

Vladimir Komarov could not do this with his friend. "That Yura", the book quotes him as saying, "and he will die instead of me. We have to take care of him." Komarov again burst into tears.

As the launch date approached, everyone became more and more pessimistic. There were serious problems that would make this machine dangerous to navigate in space.

As soon as Vladimir Komarov climbed into the transfer van to take the ride to the pad, there was an air of fateful resignation about him. Her fellow astronauts made fun of her, trying to cheer her up and get a smile. He started singing, encouraging her to join in.

By the time they reached the pad a few minutes later, he too was singing with them and the mood of pessimism had picked up. Gagarin showed up for launch in full gear and tried to persuade the crew to pilot the craft instead, but the crew (including Komarov) refused to let him go, and Komarov blew up the ship, nearly Knowing with certainty that he was likely to die. Eight minutes later Vladimir Komarov was piloting one of the most sophisticated spacecraft ever in orbit.

Trouble began once one of the Suze's two solar panels failed to deploy, starving the craft of electrical power and obscuring some navigation equipment. As the day progressed, other disturbances increased. The first attempt to change the orbit of the spacecraft was unsatisfactory.

The ship began to spin around its axis and only turned more when Komarov tried to fix the problem. The thermal control system malfunctioned, communication with the ground became erratic and power outages prevented the astro-orientation system from working. Given all these problems, ground control decided to skip the Soyuz 2 launch and bring Komarov home at the first available opportunity.

Komarov unsuccessfully tried to orient the Soyuz module for five hours. The craft was transmitting unreliable position information and communication was lost. Using procedures he had never practiced in training, Komarov managed to align the spacecraft and fire the retrorockets himself.

Despite his heroic efforts to save the mission, worse was to come. She successfully re-entered Earth's atmosphere in her 19th orbit, but as the cabin descended from the atmosphere, the drogue parachute came out but the main parachute remained in its container.

When the reserve chute was pulled out, it became entangled in the lane of the drag chute of the main parachute. Soyuz 1 crashed with great speed in the steppe in Orenburg at 7 a.m., killing Komarov.

The cabin exploded on impact and when Soviet Air Force recovery teams arrived they found the metal burning, the rim of the top of the Soyuz being the only hardware they could identify.

As Komarov headed for his doom, American listening posts in Turkey heard him cry angrily, "cursing the people who put him inside a failed spacecraft". He told ground control officers that he knew he was going to die. Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin told him over a video phone that he was a hero.

Komarov's wife was also on call to talk about what to say to their children. Kosygin was crying. When the capsule began its deadly descent US intelligence "picked up [Komarov's] fury as he fell to his death". Some translators heard him say, "The capsule is getting hot". He also used the word "killed" - possibly to describe what the engineers had done to him.

Later consensus was that the entire mission was dispatched before the Soyuz was actually ready. It seems that the death of Vladimir Komarov was almost scripted. Yuri Gagarin said in an interview that he gave Pravda weeks after the accident. He sharply criticized the officers who had let his friend fly.

The Gagarin of 1967 was very different from the carefree young man of 1961. Komarov's death had placed a heavy burden of guilt on his shoulders.

At one point Gagarin said, "I must go see the main man [Brezhnev] in person". He was very sad that he was not able to persuade Brezhnev to cancel Komarov's launch. A year after Komarov's death, Gagarin died when he was in a fighter jet crash.

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