The lost cosmonauts of the Soviet Union are spacemen who disappeared during the initial stages of Space exploration. The Lost Cosmonauts, also known as Phantom Cosmonauts, represent a theory suggesting that Soviet and Russian space authorities concealed the deaths of certain cosmonauts in outer space.
According to proponents of this theory, the Soviet Union allegedly attempted human spaceflights prior to Yuri Gagarin’s historic mission, resulting in the deaths of cosmonauts during those early endeavors. It is claimed that the Soviet government suppressed information about these incidents to avoid negative publicity during the intense Cold War era.
However, the evidence put forward to support the Lost Cosmonauts theory is generally considered inconclusive, and several cases have been exposed as hoaxes. In the 1980s, journalist James Oberg conducted extensive research on space-related disasters in the Soviet Union but found no substantiation for the existence of Lost Cosmonauts.
Furthermore, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, previously classified information has become accessible, revealing instances such as the cover-up of the death of Valentin Bondarenko, a prospective cosmonaut who tragically lost his life during training on Earth.
However, the Judica-Cordiglia brothers, two former amateur radio operators from Italy, gained attention by presenting audio recordings that purportedly provided evidence suggesting that the Soviet space program concealed the deaths of cosmonauts during the 1960s.
The brothers asserted they had captured audio from multiple unsuccessful covert Soviet space missions. These recordings have captivated public interest for over half a century.
What is the Story of the Lost Cosmonauts?
Let’s consider radio as the equivalent of the internet during the 1950s. Achille Judica-Cordiglia and his younger brother, Gian, can be seen as pioneers of space-age hacking. In 1957, while they were supposed to be doing their homework, the brothers stumbled upon a breaking news story interrupting their radio broadcast: Russia had successfully launched a satellite into Earth’s orbit.
Inspired by this event, the teenagers conceived an ambitious idea—to track the satellite themselves. Over the next few years, the Judica-Cordiglia brothers diligently built a radio monitoring station that could rival the mission control capabilities at Cape Canaveral, situated on the other side of the world.
Operating on a limited budget, they couldn’t afford the exorbitant amounts of money being invested by governments worldwide in radios, recorders, and dishes for space tracking. Instead, they resorted to purchasing used materials from military surplus stores and constructing their own equipment whenever necessary.
Notably, they engineered a collapsible radar dish using chicken wire and scrap metal salvaged from a nearby junkyard, showcasing their resourcefulness.
Benefiting from their geographical location just outside Turin, Italy, the Judica-Cordiglia brothers enjoyed an advantageous position for tracking Soviet launches. Their proximity placed them directly beneath the orbital path, followed by launches from the Soviet Union.
This positioning proved invaluable when significant events unfolded in space exploration. They successfully recorded the historical moment when Laika, a dog, became the first living being to enter space aboard Sputnik 2.
Additionally, in February 1958, they captured the beeps transmitted by America’s inaugural satellite, Explorer 1.
However, their efforts were once again propelled into action when an observatory in West Germany made an unexpected claim toward the end of November 1960. The German observatory asserted that they had intercepted radio signals that potentially belonged to a satellite.
This revelation posed a puzzling question: How was this possible? No official announcement had been made about any recent launches from Russia or any other country.
Reacting swiftly, the brothers rushed to their makeshift tracking facility, affectionately named “Torre Bert,” after the original name of the building from which they operated.
They commenced scanning frequencies in a race against time. Initially, Achille and Gian encountered silence for nearly an hour, and their resolve wavered. However, a moment of serendipity occurred as they suddenly detected a faint sound amidst the static.
The sound possessed a rhythmic quality that differed from the familiar beeping noises associated with previously tracked satellites in orbit. It became evident that this was something distinct: Morse Code.
The code transmitted in the signal was unmistakable: S.O.S.
However, there was another intriguing aspect to this enigmatic signal. It seemed to be gradually diminishing in strength, suggesting that the source of the sound was moving away from the Judica-Cordiglia brothers, potentially drifting farther from Earth. Could this be a distress signal originating from space?
If the brothers’ interpretation proved accurate, it would imply that, at that very moment, a spacecraft could be journeying toward distant regions beyond our solar system. Silence would surround this vessel as it carried its sole passenger—an intrepid human who ventured beyond our planetary confines many decades ago and never returned.
Although this passenger is no longer among the living, their cosmic journey persists, propelled at an astonishing velocity of 18,000 miles per hour. In addition to being the first organism from Earth to traverse beyond the icy expanse of the Kuiper Belt, they may also be the fastest corpse in history.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances leading to their demise, this solitary voyager rests eternally, preserved in a state of perfect cryogenic preservation at a frigid temperature of -454ºF.
If indeed he exists, this deceased traveler would represent the archetype of the lost cosmonauts—the astronaut who embarked on a journey away from Earth but never returned.
The Lost Cosmonauts of the USSR
Dubbed the “ultimate” Cold War-era urban legend, this narrative revolves around two space programs distinct from the widely recognized endeavors of Soviet Russia and the United States. Instead, it involves Russia’s publicly acknowledged program and a clandestine initiative believed by many to have been concealed within the realm of black projects.
While classified as a conspiracy theory, its potential verification could provide new insights into the veiled history of the space race, including the unsettling lengths to which the Soviets may have gone, potentially involving cosmonauts who never returned from space.
The Judica-Cordiglia brothers appeared to endorse this theory strongly. In the years following their interception of the presumed SOS signal, they continued capturing unusual transmissions, each more sensational than the last.
A claimed high-ranking Communist from the Czechoslovak Republic disclosed information regarding numerous alleged clandestine space launches in December 1959. It was stated that Alexei Ledovsky was launched aboard a modified R-5A rocket.
Andrei Mitkov, Sergei Shiborin, and Maria Gromova are three further alleged cosmonauts who are said to have died in similar circumstances. A high-ranking Czechoslovakian communist allegedly revealed a string of cosmonaut deaths on suborbital flights in December 1959, according to the Italian news agency Continentale.
On February 23, 1962, Colonel Barney Oldfield of the United States disclosed that an unmanned spacecraft had been orbiting the Earth since 1960 as a result of becoming lodged into its booster rocket.
The United States prevailed over the Soviet Union in the crewed Moon landing phase of the space race. Several reports assert that the Russians made a daring attempt to beat the Americans immediately before the famous Apollo 11 mission to the Moon.
A decision to use an N1 to launch a crewed Soyuz 7K-L3 vehicle to the Moon is said to have been made despite the new Soviet rocket’s first test launch’s failure on January 20, 1969. This purported attempt occurred on July 3, 1969, and the launch pad was destroyed along with the two cosmonauts aboard. According to official sources, the L3 wasn’t ready for crewed missions.
By the time the Moon-landing program was terminated at the end of 1974, its lunar lander, the LK, had undergone a few tests, but its orbiter, the 7K-LOK, had not. The program’s closure was formally denied and kept a secret until 1990 when the government permitted their publication per the Glasnost doctrine.
Perhaps the most extraordinary and disconcerting incident occurred on February 2, 1961. Approaching 11 PM, within the confines of their control room at Torre Bert, the brothers picked up a transmission that they believed originated from an orbiting capsule.
As the recording unit’s capstan began to rotate, the crackling sounds of space gradually gave way to the familiar beeps and mechanical noises associated with spaceflight. However, something more chilling permeated the static—distinctive slow breathing intertwined with agonizing moans, resembling the desperate struggle for air, akin to a person suffocating.
These recordings were not isolated instances. On a separate occasion at Torre Bert, the brothers reported capturing what resembled the rapid beating of a human heart. They shared these recordings with Professor Achille Dogliotti, an Italian cardiologist, who concurred that the sounds appeared to be strained breathing and an accelerated heartbeat.
However, if no Soviet launches were scheduled during the time these recordings were made, the question arose: What or who could have been the source of these eerie space sounds? Was it conceivable that the Soviets had indeed lost cosmonauts during covert space missions?
In the months that followed, the boys claimed to intercept further transmissions. One such transmission indicated a spacecraft that completed three orbits of the Earth before reentry, just days prior to Yuri Gagarin’s historical recognition as the first human in space.
The following month, they intercepted another transmission accompanied by distressed calls for help. October of that same year brought more activity, with the brothers believing they had recorded another Soviet space mission departing Earth’s orbit, vanishing into the distant reaches of space.
Over the subsequent three years, the Judica-Cordiglia brothers obtained even more astonishing recordings. Notably, among the characters depicted in the tape recordings they produced was a female cosmonaut. The brothers would later claim that this recording predated the spaceflight of Valentina Tereshkova, who achieved fame as the first woman to journey into space.
The audio recording captures the distressing communication of a cosmonaut who expresses concern about being hot and asks for assistance. The emotional intensity builds as the cosmonaut mentions seeing a flame and expresses fear of crashing.
The transmission abruptly ends, and the cosmonaut’s damaged spacecraft is discovered on Earth days later, but the cosmonaut is not found. The recording is found below.
The translation of the recording of the lost cosmonaut goes as follows:
“Listen… listen! Come in! Come in. Come in. Talk to me! talk to me! I am hot. I am hot! What? Forty-five. What? Forty-five, Fifty. Yes. Yes. Breathing. Breathing. Oxygen. Oxygen. I am hot; isn’t this dangerous?” The haunting audio continues: “It’s all… yes… how is this? What? Talk to me! How should I transmit? Yes. What? Our transmission begins now. Forty-one. This way. Yes. I feel hot. I feel hot. It’s all… it’s hot. I feel hot.”
Toward the end of the audio, the woman becomes increasingly emotional as she says: “I can see a flame. I can see a flame! I feel hot. I feel hot. Thirty-two. Thirty-two. Forty-one. Am I going to crash? Yes. Yes. I feel hot. I feel hot! I will re-enter.”
The narrative took an even stranger turn when the Judica-Cordiglia brothers claimed to have received visits from the media, including an individual who identified himself as a Russian reporter. Shortly after this visitor left their residence, another unexpected knock on the door alerted them to the arrival of a man they would later refer to as their “guardian angel.”
According to the bearded Italian who visited them, he stated that the man posing as a journalist was more than he seemed. He revealed that the individual actually worked for the KGB, the Soviet secret service, and cautioned the brothers to be cautious.
Furthermore, he disclosed his own role in the Italian Secret Service (SIFA) within the realm of counterintelligence, emphasizing that the brothers were in danger. However, the Italian government would strive to provide protection.
Criticism of the Work on Lost Cosmonauts
Renowned researcher Sven Grahn is among those who express skepticism regarding the claims made by the Italian brothers Achille and Gian Battista Judica-Cordiglia. Grahn acknowledges that the brothers operated a relatively advanced tracking station, recognizing their noteworthy accomplishments given their limited resources.
However, he considers the stories told by the Judica-Cordiglia brothers and their assertions of intercepting “secret” Soviet missions to be part of the mythology surrounding the Space Age.
Grahn argues that while their tracking capabilities were commendable, it is insufficient evidence to substantiate their claims of intercepting classified transmissions.
According to Sven Grahn, it is believed that the Judica-Cordiglia brothers indeed operated a tracking station and intercepted signals from various spacecraft. However, Grahn suggests that they may have embellished their findings in order to maintain a sensational image for their operation.
By overinterpreting certain receptions and making extraordinary claims, they became trapped in a cycle of producing sensational stories.
While many of the recordings made by the brothers are viewed with skepticism and could potentially be dismissed as hoaxes, it is worth noting that some evidence suggests that a few of their recordings might be genuine.
In 2008, writer Kris Hollington was able to locate and interview a former KGB agent who had visited the Judica-Cordiglia brothers. This former agent went on to become a Russian ambassador to an undisclosed European country. The identity of the country and the agent remains undisclosed due to the individual’s desire to remain anonymous.
In the interview with Kris Hollington, published in Fortean Times, the former KGB agent disclosed their interest in the Judica-Cordiglia brothers due to their interception of Soviet communications. The agent acknowledged the audacity of the brothers, considering them amateur individuals who were able to penetrate and unravel the secrets of the Russian space program.
The agent further confirmed the authenticity of the recording involving Yuri Gagarin, transcribing it and verifying its genuineness. As a result of this incident, the cosmonauts were cautioned about their conversations during space missions, and surveillance was initiated on the Judica-Cordiglia brothers.
Hollington’s report ended on a chilling note, suggesting that the fate of the Judica-Cordiglia brothers may have been grim. The former agent stated that they “had to be dealt with,” hinting at a potential “accident”. However, it is speculated that the media attention garnered by the brothers during that time might have played a role in their safety, as it likely deterred any attempts against them.
Despite the lack of conclusive evidence to fully substantiate the claims made by the Judica-Cordiglia brothers, researchers like Sven Grahn have suggested that if there were additional records available from the brothers that could be correlated with confirmed launches during the same time period, it could lend more credibility to their assertions.
However, without such supporting evidence, skepticism remains regarding the existence of actual secret space missions conducted by the Soviets.
Could the Lost Cosmonauts be Real?
Nevertheless, there have been instances indicating efforts by Russian officials to conceal certain aspects of the Soviet space program. Space historian James Oberg and others have identified discrepancies in Soviet-era historical photographs, revealing that “official” versions of these photos were manipulated to remove specific individuals from the images.
These findings suggest that attempts were made to control the narrative and potentially hide certain information related to the space program.
Indeed, the tales of “lost cosmonauts” have persisted and captured the imagination of many, partly due to the veil of secrecy surrounding Soviet operations during that crucial era of space exploration.
While there are lingering uncertainties and doubts regarding the authenticity of the recordings made by the Judica-Cordiglia brothers at Torre Bert, the stories of Soviet secrecy and alleged lost cosmonauts have acquired an almost mythical quality. These accounts continue to captivate people as some of the most intriguing and eerie legends emerge from the space age.
Next, read about the Terrible Story of the Byford Dolphin Diving Bell Incident. Then, if you’re into Dark History, try the story of Joseph Merrick, the Tragic Story of the Elephant Man!
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