New research debunks the various conspiracy theories surrounding the 1967 death of Soyuz-1 cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, the first fatality of a spacefarer during a space mission.

An official Soyuz-1 “Onboard Journal” document has been translated and analyzed that contains information not previously available to researchers or the public, including details from the final hours of the Soyuz-1 flight, now  over 50 years ago. The 16-page document is signed by the shift directors of the Soviet equivalent of “mission control.”

Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov
Credit: Roscosmos

 

 

Auction catalog

In late 2018, the journal was discovered by Quest publisher Scott Sacknoff in a Heritage Auctions catalog of space exploration items dated May 11, 2018.

The catalog for that auction notes that the copy of the Onboard Journal (Transcript) for the ill-fated flight is from the Collection of General Nikolai Kamanin. A sixteen-page typescript in Russian, 8” x 11.25” in size, documents the April 23-24, 1967, voice transmissions between “Dawn” (ground control) and “Ruby” (cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov).

At the close of the last page is a handwritten notation by a KGB agent dated May 3, 1967. Its folder has “Soyuz 1” handwritten on the cover by Kamanin.

“The Soyuz 1 fight was a manned test of a new spacecraft and was plagued with technical issues. Many believe that Komarov knew he would perish during the  flight and went ahead anyway to protect his backup, which was Yuri Gagarin. It would be interesting to translate this official transcript and compare it to the transmissions picked up by U.S. Intelligence,” the catalog description notes. There was a starting bid of $350 for the document.

Conjecture and rumors

The forthcoming issue of Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly (Volume 27 #1) explores the recently uncovered document by noted Soviet space expert, Asif Siddiqi, a historian at Fordham University specializing in the history of science and technology.

Soyuz 1 crash site
Credit: Roscosmos

According to a Quest statement: “In April 1967, the Soviets launched Komarov on the very first mission of the Soyuz spacecraft. A day later, the cosmonaut died after his space capsule plummeted to Earth and crashed in Soviet Central Asia. As soon as Komarov’s death was announced, conjecture and rumors quickly filled the vacuum created by the lack of hard information. The most ubiquitous include: that he was “crying in rage” as his spaceship plummeted to Earth, angry at the engineers and designers who built a faulty capsule; that he directly talked to Chairman of the Council of Ministers Aleksei Kosygin, who broke into tears telling Komarov (over video!) that he was a hero; or that Komarov’s wife and children tearfully said their goodbyes before his demise. American intelligence agencies supposedly picked up all of these harried transmissions from tracking stations in Turkey. None of this, of course, was ever confirmed,” the Quest statement explains.

“Now with the official journal from the mission, the true and complete story can finally be told,” said Quest publisher, Scott Sacknoff.

Information about Quest can be found at: www.spacehistory101.com

Reporters/Media seeking additional information should contact Scott Sacknoff via email at scott@spacehistory101.com or by phone at (202) 596-1812.

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