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|fter the successful orbital flight of Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet authorities wanted to give a further demonstration of their superiority: Alan Shepard had finally entered space on May 5, 1961, but only for a brief, suborbital flight. The U.S.S.R. would send into orbit the first woman cosmonaut, before the americans could even attempt their first orbital flight. And while the americans were planning one additional suborbital flight before attempting a flight of only three orbits, the russian woman cosmonaut would fly 17 times around the earth.
The launch took place on the 16th of May, 1961. We don’t know what went wrong during the flight, but re-entry had to be delayed. It is possible that the thermal shield of the Vostok capsule may have been damaged during launch. A decision was finally made to attempt re-entry on May 23rd, due to the dwindling air supplies.
The italian listening post manned by the Judica-Cordiglia brothers had, by now, learned how to intercept the voice communications between the spacecraft and mission control, in addition to the physiological data received on the previous missions.
A full english translation is presented, together with the original voice recording.
Three days later, on May 26, 1961, TASS, the soviet press agency announced the return to earth on the 23rd of a large, unmanned satellite which burned upon re-entering the atmosphere. The satellite was the size of a city bus. Its launch had not been previously disclosed and its purpose was unknown.
Transcript of Dr Achille Judica Cordiglias interview on Italian national radio
Golem” is a popular radio program which airs four times a week on RAI UNO, Italys most important national radio station. The program deals primarily with the “media” at large; in particular with the relationship between media-generated information and reality.
It compares reality as it is presented by todays mass media and the same reality as seen by the people, who, for better or for worse, have to live through it.
The “Golem” broadcast that we have included in our web site begins with a commentary on the current NATO military action in Kosovo. For the last few days, “Golem” has been relaying information received via short-wave radio or via the Internet from “unofficial” Serbian radio stations.
These are voices of the people, voices that do not belong to any official news agency nor to a state-run information service. Recent broadcasts have also mentioned web sites where it is possible to hear live radio conversations among NATO pilots involved in the war.
In the same spirit, Mario Abrate, webmaster of the “Lost Cosmonauts” web site, contacted the “Golem” staff to make them aware of the intercepts made by the Judica Cordiglia brothers in the 1960s and to create a sort of ideal link between those voices that came from space and these voices that are engaged in battle here on Earth.
Gianluca Nicoletti, the creator and presenter of “Golem” found a connection between the present situation in Europe and the early sixties, highlighting the role played by radio, then and now, in exposing the truth that lies hidden behind the curtain of officialdom laid by the mass media.
You can hear, obviously in Italian, the entire broadcast; it starts with some voices from the war zone: the announcement that the “B92” free radio had been shut down by the Yugoslav government. The topic then shifts to the “Lost Cosmonauts”, starting in the fifth minute of the broadcast.
We are providing a transcription of the telephone interview between Gianluca Nicoletti and Achille Judica Cordiglia that was broadcast during the program.
Nicoletti (5:45): Doctor Judica Cordiglia, what do you think about this need that we feel to pick-up via radio and make known to our listeners these fleeting fragments of reality?
AJC: When you can spend entire days and nights at your radio listening station, the way we used to do with our receivers, it is possible to receive a more complete view of what is really happening
Nicoletti: Have you ever been tempted, during the more recent and sophisticated conflicts to try and eavesdrop on what was going on?
AJC: Yes, indeed! At home, during the war with Iraq, I was able to receive two “unauthorized” radio stations.
Nicoletti: Are you still involved in this type of activity?
AJC: These days I have a different occupation; I am a cardiologist. In my home, however, I still have a room that I use for this. I still have all the equipment from the old days; all the receivers, one of them still works. In my garden I still have the antenna that was the key to our achievements. It is an eight-sided dish antenna, with a diameter of eight meters and it can be rotated in elevation and in azimuth. Back then it was the largest in Italy. It allowed us to receive those signals and it still works. I have it here by the house.
Nicoletti (9:00): What motivated you and your brother to listen for those sounds?
AJC: It was mainly a great passion for Radio communications. We were already Ham radio operators, but what really interested us was listening to transmissions from space. When Sputnik 1 was launched, on October 4, 1957, we set up our listening post and we were able to receive its signals. Thats when our passion for space radio really began.
Thirty or forty years ago we bought some surplus american airborne receivers; we adapted them and we began to listen to satellite broadcasts on that equipment. Then our activity really took off; from a backyard operation it grew into a real tracking station, located in the hills around the city of Turin. Later, for political reasons, given the type of signals we were receiving a fact that was not appreciated by the Russians we found a number of red flags we were in the sixties, remember, the middle of the cold war and we then decided to move our operation to San Maurizio Canavese, near Caselle airport, where we set up an efficient satellite tracking station, where most of these signals were eventually received and recorded.
Nicoletti: What would you consider the most remarkable and most tragic of all your intercepts?
AJC: In our opinion, there were 14 soviet astronauts who perished in space. It started in 1960 and went on until the early 70s. Fourteen astronauts, men and women. I think the most interesting (I am not sure this is the right word) signals were the heartbeat and gasping breathing that we received on Februuary 2, 1961. These were clearly the heartbeat and breathing of a human being. We even recorded a systolic skip, that confirmed what we were witnessing.
AJC (12:52): We were quite sure of all the fourteen missions because, in addition to the direction in which the antenna was pointing and to the periodicity of the signals, which matched the orbiting period of an Earth satellite, we also detected the “Doppler” shift in the frequency of the received signals. This effect is typical of radio signals transmitted or received by a moving vehicle. The reception would last over twenty minutes, so we knew that it coulnt come from an airplane. The orientation of the antenna, the frequencies being used and, most of all, the character of the conversations left us in no doubt. In those days, we used the Berlitz School to translate the messages.
These events were later confirmed by NASA and, much later, some were even acknowledged from within the Soviet Union, after the fall of the Berlin wall.
Nicoletti: Did the Russians ever admit that there were missions that preceded Yuri Gagarins flight?
AJC: Some preceded Gagarins mission, some came later. It was typical of the cold war; mainly the race for the Moon.
Nicoletti: Did you ever receive anything more telling than a heartbeat?
AJC: Yes, we received voices, in Russian, both male and female. The transmission is from May 1961; two men and a woman. Together with several journalists who were with us at the time, we witnessed, in real time, the death of the soviet cosmonaut. Her name was Ludmila and we recorded her voice, her last messages while they happened.
Nicoletti: Was this ever aknowledged by the soviet authorities?
AJC: Absolutely not! They denied the whole thing and in April of 1965, TASS released a long communiqué directed against us, in very personal terms. They specifically mentioned our names; they said these things were totally untrue and that the names (we had provided names of the victims) belonged to people who had never existed.
At that point we responded through ANSA (the Italian national Press Agency, n.d.t.) saying that we didnt just have their names, but also their pictures. We had seen their pictures in the magazine “Ogoniok”, in an article published five years earlier that showed the rookie cosmonauts undergoing training. So, the voices between the capsules and ground control, the fact that the cosmonauts were addressed by their first name and the pictures with the names of the trainees allowed us to identify the victims.
At this point in the program, the voice of the female cosmonaut is broadcast.
Nicoletti: The female voice is reading back some technical data. Now she is saying that she feels hot. Later she will announce that her capsule is burning: “Visciu Flama!”- I can see flames!
Nicoletti: Now, forty years later, to hear the voices of people facing the flames of destruction we still have to rely on that old and venerable medium: the radio
Vladimir Ilyushin e’ il figlio di uno dei piu’ conosciuti progettisti areonautici sovietici, Serghei Ilyushin. Negli anni sessanta Serghei Ilyushin fu una figura politicamente molto potente, uno dei leader dell’establishment sovietico, insignito di tre medaglie come “eroe dell’Unione Sovietica”.
Suo figlio, Vladimir, fu fra i migliori piloti collaudatori; nel 1959 conquistò il record mondiale di altezza quando, con un aereo da caccia Sukhoi-9, raggiunse la quota di 30.000 metri. Nel 1960 ricevette anch’egli l’onorificenza di “Eroe dell’Unione Sovietica” per meriti in campo aeronautico.
In un primo tempo Ilyushin non fece parte del corpo dei cosmonauti ed in effetti non apparve nelle immagini del gruppo di futuri cosmonauti pubblicate nel 1959 dalla popolare rivista “Ogonyok”. A quel tempo Vladimir Ilyushin concentrava i suoi sforzi sul tentativo di battere il record di alta quota, ma ben presto si rese conto di come questo record fosse poca cosa rispetto alla possibilita’ di raggiungere l’orbita terrestre. Forse grazie all’influenza politica del padre, gli fu permesso di unirsi al gruppo di cosmonauti un’anno dopo la formazione ufficiale di tale gruppo. Egli fu sottoposto ad un programma di addestramento intensivo e si segnalo’ presto come il pilota dotato di maggior talento. Nel 1961 vennero pubblicate alcune foto che ritraggono Ilyushin durante l’addestramento al volo spaziale.
Il 2 febbraio 1961 un cosmonauta venne segretamente lanciato nello spazio . Gia’ nella prima parte della missione qualcosa non funzionò: il pilota perse i sensi e, impossibilitato a rientrare sulla terra prima dell’inizio della seconda orbita, venne costretto a rimanere nello spazio fino alla diciassettesima, onde evitare un suo rientro in terra straniera. La missione si concluse quindi con la morte nello spazio del cosmonauta.
Vladimir Ilyushin era il pilota previsto per la missione seguente. Il problema della missione precedente era stato apparentemente risolto e la capsula “Rossyia” venne quindi lanciata il 7 aprile 1961.
Viene riportato che anche questa volta qualcosa nella capsula non funziono’. Prima del completamento della prima orbita, si interruppero le comunicazioni radio fra la capsula e la centrale a terra. Ilyushin perdette conoscenza e vi fu il concreto rischio che i tragici avvenimenti della missione precedente si ripetessero. Ma questa volta, vista l’importanza del pilota, venne deciso di tentare un atterraggio di fortuna durante la terza orbita. La capsula cadde quindi in territorio Cinese, Paese questo che, pur essendo anch’esso comunista, non aveva a quel tempo buoni rapporti con l’URSS.
La normale procedura di rientro prevedeva l’eiezione del pilota dalla capsula ad un’altezza di 20.000 piedi, il pilota doveva atterrare autonomamente col proprio paracadute. Essendo privo di sensi, Ilyushin non fu in grado di eiettarsi e quindi precipito’ al suolo all’interno della “Rossyia” riportando gravi danni fisici. Rimase gravemente ferito ma vivo, guadagnondosi l’onore di essere stato il primo uomo rientrato vivo da un volo spaziale.
Le autorita’ cinesi lo trattennero in ospedale per un anno come “ospite di riguardo”, un eufemismo riservato ad agenti dei servizi segreti stranieri. Nei momenti subito successivi a questo atterraggio di emergenza, attraverso corrispondenti comunisti stranieri accreditati a Mosca, trapelarono voci su un imminente lancio di una missione spaziale con uomini a bordo da parte dell’Unione Sovietica.
Soltanto il giorno successivo al fallimento della missione di Ilyushin, venne presa la veloce decisione di lanciare un pilota di riserva, Yuri Gagarin. Sembra che neppure Kruschev, che si trovava in vacanza sul Mar Nero, fosse stato avvertito della decisione di lanciare Gagarin nello Spazio.
Anche il volo di Gagarin rischio’ di finire in tragedia: al momento del rientro la capsula di discesa non riusciva a distaccarsi dal modulo di servizio. Dopo diversi inutili tentativi il modulo riusci’, senza particolari motivi, a separarsi. Tale operazione comporto’ un ritardo di circa dieci minuti nella procedura di rientro e Gagarin dovette quindi atterrare in una remota area, lontana dal previsto punto di atterraggio. Nonostante queste vicissitudini la missione venne giustamente considerata, dal mondo intero, come un grosso successo e riusci’ effetivamente a “coprire” il fallimento della missione di Ilyushin.
Vladimir Ilyushin guarito dalle conseguenze dell’incidente, torno’ in Unione Sovietica nel 1962 e divenne capo pilota collaudatore del Sukhoi Design Bureau. Oggi (1999) e’ un Generale in pensione e vive un un sobborgo di Mosca.
May 16 – 23, 1961
come in… come in… come in…
LISTEN…LISTEN! …COME IN!
COME IN… COME IN… TALK TO ME!
TALK TO ME!… I AM HOT!… I AM HOT!
WHAT?… FORTYFIVE?… WHAT?…
OXYGEN… I AM HOT… (THIS)
ISN’T THIS DANGEROUS?… IT’S ALL…
ISN’T THIS DANGEROUS?… IT’S ALL…
YES…YES…YES… HOW IS THIS?
WHAT?… TALK TO ME!… HOW SHOULD I
WHAT? OUR TRANSMISSION BEGINS NOW…
FORTYONE… THIS WAY… OUR
TRANSMISSION BEGINS NOW…
FORTYONE… THIS WAY… OUR
TRANSMISSION BEGINS NOW…
FORTYONE… YES… I FEEL HOT…
I FEEL HOT… IT’S ALL… IT’S HOT…
I FEEL HOT… I FEEL HOT… I FEEL HOT…
… I CAN SEE A FLAME!… WHAT?…
I CAN SEE A FLAME!… I CAN SEE A
I FEEL HOT… I FEEL HOT… THIRTYTWO…
THIRTYTWO… FORTYONE… FORTYONE
AM I GOING TO CRASH?… YES…YES… I FEEL HOT!…
I FEEL HOT!… I WILL REENTER!… I WILL REENTER…
I AM LISTENING!… I FEEL HOT!…