Death of Yuri Gagarin demystified 40 years on

After over 40 years of secrecy, the real cause of death of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, has been made public. Russia’s prominent cosmonaut Aleksey Leonov reveals the truth behind the events of that tragic day.

For over 20 years Aleksey Leonov, the first man to conduct a
spacewalk in 1965, has been struggling to gain permission to
disclose details of what happened to the legendary Yuri Gagarin
in March 1968. 

Back then a State Commission established to investigate the
accident (which Leonov was a part of), concluded that a crew of
MiG-15UTI, Yuri Gagarin and experienced instructor Vladimir
Seryogin, tried to avoid a foreign object — like geese or a hot
air balloon — by carrying out a maneuver that had led to a
tailspin and, finally, collision with the ground. Both pilots
died in that test flight.

 

“That conclusion is believable to a civilian — not to a
professional,”
Leonov told RT. He has always had a firm
stance against the secrecy surrounding Gagarin’s death, and
wanted at least his family to know the truth.

 

“In fact, everything went down differently,” he says.

 

According to a declassified report, there is a human factor
behind the tragic incident – an unauthorized SU-15 fighter jet
was flying dangerously close to Gagarin’s aircraft.  

 

“In this case, the pilot didn’t follow the book, descending to
an altitude of 450 meters. I know this because I was there; I
heard the sound and talked to witnesses. While afterburning the
aircraft reduced its echelon at a distance of 10-15 meters in the
clouds, passing close to Gagarin, turning his plane and thus
sending it into a tailspin — a deep spiral, to be precise — at a
speed of 750 kilometers per hour,”
Leonov tells.

 

However, the name of the man responsible for Gagarin’s death is
still not being disclosed. Keeping him anonymous was a condition
under which Leonov was allowed to talk. It is only known that the
pilot is now 80 years old and is in poor health.

Alexey Leonov


 

“I promised that I wouldn’t name [him],” Leonov said.
 

Conspiracy theories have surrounded the events of that day for
years. They included suicide — even a collision with a UFO.

But for all intents and purposes, the case is closed, and the
newfound truth should provide those affected with closure. Such
is the conclusion of the first woman in space, Russian Valentina
Tereshkova. She spoke at a press conference at the UN
headquarters in Vienna, where she participated in a conference of
the Committee for the Peaceful Use of Outer Space.


“The only regret here is that it took so long for the truth to be
revealed,”
she said. “But we can finally rest easy.”

Gagarin’s passing was not only a tragedy, but a career-ending
moment for Tereshkova. The state simply wouldn’t let her fly
anymore, as the possibility of losing a second cosmonaut of such
stature would have been simply catastrophic.

“They forbade me from flying ever again, even piloting planes.
The repercussions of the death of one cosmonaut were so great
that they wanted to keep me safe.”

But the source of Tereshkova’s deepest sadness still lies with
Gagarin’s passing. She tried to hold back tears, as she spoke:
“I still miss him. It is a loss not only for us cosmonaut
colleagues, but for the entire community.”

First female cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova (RIA Novosti)

This article originally appeared on: RT