On the 50th anniversary of the death of Yuri Gagarin, First Man in Space

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin had made history through his first manned space flight on 12 April 1961 and was considered a national hero when he died on 27 March 1968 during a routine flight with a MiG-15 fighter jet.

The creation of a legend …

Comet Photo AG: Yuri Gagarin, Reception in Japan, presumably 1962 (Com_AL-SU0-17-02)

Jack Metzger: Montreal, Expo 67, Yuri Gagarin’s space capsule Wostok 1 in the Russian Pavillon, April 1967 (Com_L16-0320-0004-0002)

Legendary, even in death …

Gagarin’s fatal crash has long been surrounded by theories and rumors. These were also fueled by the fact that the authorities had no real interest in clarifying the accident. Andrew Jenks writes:

One participant in the classified world of Soviet airplane crash investigations remarked that all information surrounding aviation disasters, civilian or military, was kept completely secret. The official view was that disaster did not happen in the Soviet Union! We know how to manage technology (Jenks, S. 247).

In 2013, further (unofficial) research showed that Gagarin’s crash was probably caused by another pilot’s mistake, and was therefore not an unusual event. Even heroes sometimes die like ordinary people.

Further reading:

Jenks, Andrew L.: The cosmonaut who couldn’t stop smiling. The life and legend of Yuri Gagarin. DeKalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois University Press, 2012.

Pavlova-Marinsky, Ludmila: Juri Gagarin-Das Leben. Berlin: Verlag Neues Leben, 2011.

Schwartz, Matthias/Anding, Kevin/Meyer, Holt (Hrsg.): Gagarin als Archivkörper und Erinnerungsfigur. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition, 2014. 

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