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    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009
    Lost Cosmonauts

    There are those who believe that somewhere in the vast blackness of space, about nine billion miles from the Sun, the first human is about to cross the boundary of our Solar System into interstellar space. His body, perfectly preserved, is frozen at –270 degrees C (–454ºF); his tiny capsule has been silently sailing away from the Earth at 18,000 mph (29,000km/h) for the last 45 years. He is the original lost cosmonaut, whose rocket went up and, instead of coming back down, just kept on going.

    It is the ultimate in Cold War legends: that at the dawn of the Space Age, in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, the Soviet Union had two space programmes, one a public programme, the other a ‘black’ one, in which far more daring and sometimes downright suicidal missions were attempted. It was assumed that Russia’s Black Ops, if they existed at all, would remain secret forever.

    The ‘Lost Cosmonauts’ debate has been reawakened thanks to a new investigation into the efforts of two ingenious, radio-mad young Italian brothers who, starting in 1957, hacked into both Russia’s and NASA’s space programmes – so effect­ively that the Russians, it seems, may have wanted them dead.

    This is the first I've heard of this debate/legend and it's truly fascinating.

    So was it Major Tima instead of major Tom?

    Also was it really a mistake that these lost capsules didn't come back to earth? Was there maybe an executive decision from the Kremlin to send these guys out there and let them freeze with the almost impossible hope that they actually contact some advanced alien civilization? There are lots of potential political implications if that were to happen. What would happen if a complete kool-aid drinking Soviet Communist party member with the desire to win the cold war brings back an alien armada?

    ok, I've got to get to work and tinfoil hats are strictly no-nos on the corporate dress code.
  1.  (5688.2)
    What would happen if a complete kool-aid drinking Soviet Communist party member with the desire to win the cold war brings back an alien armada?

    Please call Glenn Beck’s show to expound upon this theory. The teabaggers will eat it up.
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009
    Beck's too much of a crying wussy boy to do anything about the obvious soon to be communist alien invasion.

    Besides you know he would just turn this into a "See I told you Obama was an alien, only instead of a socialist illegal kenyan alien, he's a COMMUNIST SPACE ALIEN"
  2.  (5688.4)
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009

    The Russians didn't announce Gagarin's flight until he was safely back on the ground so there's nothing innately incredible about the idea that there were earlier unsuccessful attempts at manned spaceflight.

    But to quote from the Wikipedia page above:

    The evidence cited to support Lost Cosmonaut theories is generally not regarded as conclusive, and several cases have been confirmed as hoaxes. In the 1980s, American journalist James Oberg researched space-related disasters in the Soviet Union, but found no evidence of these Lost Cosmonauts.[1] However, since the early 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union, much previously restricted information is now available. Even with access to published Soviet archival material and memoirs of Russian space pioneers, no hard evidence has emerged to support the Lost Cosmonaut stories. Some argue[who?] that records are still being kept confidential, or were destroyed altogether.
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009
    Arthur C. Clarke did a bit with this in 3001 actually. One of the astronauts dumped by HAL in the first book was found spinning his way out of the solar system a thousand years on.
  3.  (5688.7)
    There is a chance that the information could be lost forever - Paper copies are easy to dispose of and the people who know could be shot dead!?
  4.  (5688.8)
    I have to admit I prefer the term Phantom Cosmonaut.
  5.  (5688.9)
    well, if I remember the best Nigerian scam email, the astronauts are African and they were left in space by the Russians.
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009
    On the one hand, there's a story that may support it. In Robert Heinlein's "Expanded Universe," Heinlein and his wife visit the USSR in *1960*. While they are there, Soviet radio and a general smugness in the air suggested that something big and of great Cold War propaganda value is in the offing. A few days later, the mood has suddenly changed to one of doom and depression. It's never explained.

    On the other...

    Look at the numbers. 17,000 mph is needed to achieve earth orbit; otherwise, the rocket falls back to earth (ballistic trajectory). At 25,000 mph you get geosynchronous / geostationary orbit. It's also escape velocity, because any boost, no matter how small, and you drift away. Anything in between, like 18,000 mph, gives you elliptical orbits or circular orbits less than 23,000 miles up.

    If the story meant 18,000 mph on top of the 25,000 needed to head for deep space, I doubt anybody on the planet had the capability to reach that 43,000mph in 1961, let alone with a person-sized payload. The Soviet N-1 rocket that blew up on the pad in 1960 was a two-stage liquid-fueled, maybe a little bigger than the Vostok rocket that Gagarin rode the following April, or the modified Atlas that Glenn rode a year later. The N-1's first (bottom) stage was a dud, but the timer lit the second stage on time, after Nedelin and his engineers got on the pad to check it out, and all that unignited fuel went up.

    The Apollo 3-stage rocket in 1968 took 5 days to reach the moon, which is 240,000 miles / 120 hours = 2000mph (on top of the 25,000). Granted, they didn't plan to keep sailing past the moon, but that's nowhere near 18,000 (+ 25,000).

    Someone with more time on their hands can state the above more elegantly by listing specific impulses of available propellants in the 1950s and 1960s, and work out how big a rocket you'd need to get your 43,000mph, but I hope you get the idea that it's extremely unlikely to be within the reach of 1960 technology. (Even those captured Nazi flying saucers were meant for atmospheric, not space, flight!)

    If our phantom cosmonaut is in earth orbit, he would be fairly easy for NORAD to track now. Even if he returned to earth in the meantime, he would have been spotted by various ground tracking sites, scientific observatories or even hobbyists.

    But the rest of the story is a lot more fascinating than a dead cosmonaut or two in orbit.
    • CommentAuthorJigsy Q
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009
    X-treme Cosmonauting!!!
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009
    I feel bad for all the dead dogs and monkeys in orbit...
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009
    Oh wow. Even if it is just conspiracy, there the idea for several awesome stories right there. And the opportunity for maaaany HAL jokes.

    (and now I have space oddity stuck in my head...)
  6.  (5688.14)
    "Laika might be waiting somewhere high above the clouds-feeling sad and lonely and wanting to come down"

    ive been listening to this song obsessively lately, unrelated to this.
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009
    I recently directed a play that used this "theory" as its central premise: in a desperate attempt to beat the Americans to the moon, the Soviets used a "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" approach, shooting up mission after mission, in the hopes that at least a few of them would, by sheer luck if nothing else, end successfully. Although the play wasn't intended to be a factual, historical recitation of events, but rather was more of a "contemporary fairytale", the playwright nevertheless did quite a bit of research on the subject of the Soviet-era space program, and although I think he's somewhat convinced of the validity of the "lost cosmonaut" theory, my own subsequent research didn't turn up anything conclusive.

    But, as stated above, given the levels of general paranoia in the Soviet military at the time, it's not at all inconceivable they would have suppressed any information that depicted their space efforts in a less than spectacular light. Although, on the other hand, there were still plenty of participants alive at the time of the USSR's collapse that researchers and authors were able to gain access to first-hand accounts, none of which to my knowledge at least have ever alluded to such failed missions, aside from the ones we already knew about previously. So, if in fact such failures occurred, the "conspiracy of silence" was indeed formidable, although I can't imagine the deception could have been held together for decades without at least a few individuals having knowledge of those events coming forward to set the record straight.

    In any case, I think the theory may be rooted in the fact that the Soviets had multiple, nearly redundant design programs running under Korolyov, Yangel, Glusko and Chelomei, with the assumption being that therefore they would have also had competing application programs as well. Personally, I think this is highly unlikely, given the huge expense of maintaining even a single dedicated program, as well the fact there was such a limited availability of skilled designers, engineers and technicians, and that even bona fide geniuses such as Glushko were frequently way off-the-mark in terms of some of their design theories, as evinced by the 1960 R-16 disaster and the later N-1 "moon rocket" explosions.
    • CommentAuthorSolario
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009 edited
    I really can't imagine a death worse than being trapped in a little box, slowly running out of air, floating into space.
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009
    It would probably incredibly serene, in my opinion. That is, after you've shit yourself realizing you aren't going home. And anoxia is one of the calmer, sleepier deaths methinks.

    and @mrarey, That just made me think, would his body be perfectly preserved? Would it freeze very soon? Otherwise (unless the astronaut were completely sterilized before launch) I would think the body would decompose inside the suit until it gets too cold.
    • CommentAuthoroga
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2009
    I bet the cosmonaut will awake in a protein bath in a resurrection tank surrounded by Cylons demanding to know where the home planet is and how long ago was that? 15,000 years?!
  7.  (5688.19)
    I'm excited for the plot to Hellboy: Conqueror Worm to play out. Just, Soviets instead of Nazis I guess. But I'll takes what I's can gets.
    • CommentAuthorSolario
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2009

    But, dude, Cabin Fever times infinite. Throw in a little delirium and conditions akin to the Event Horizon film, and we're almost there.