The Lost Cosmonauts – Erased from memory

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t is a well known fact that, at the beginning of the space race, the Soviet authorities refused to admit failure in their manned missions. They made great efforts to hide any trace of those pilots or cosmonauts that either perished or were, in some other way, disgraced.

The first series of pictures presented here are known as the “Sochi” photographs, because they were taken at the Black Sea resort of Sochi in May of 1961, shortly after the successful orbital flight of Yuri Gagarin.

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Front row: A.G. Nikolayev; Y.A. Gagarin; “Vostok” chief designer S.P. Korolioff; training director Karpov; parachute trainer N.K. Nikitin.
Back row: P.R. Popovich; G.G. Nelyuboff; G.S. Titov; V.F. Bykovsky.
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The picture with the six cosmonauts has been released in at least four versions, three of which were notable for the absence of one of the cosmonauts, airbrushed into oblivion by the state censors. The missing cosmonaut has been identified as Grigory Grigoryevich Nelyuboff. The current story from Moscow is that Nelyuboff was expelled from the cosmonauts’ corps for bad behavior (apparently he got into a fight). He fell into disgrace and committed suicide in 1966.

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The other photograph, taken at the same time, shows a group of 22 people; there are sixteen cosmonauts, as well as rocket designer Serghei Pavlovich Korolioff, his wife, cosmonaut Popovich’s daughter, two trainers and a doctor. Of this photograph, too, various retouched variants are known to exist. Up to six cosmonauts were “deleted” from the picture.

The last two pictures were taken in the mid-sixties. They show the disappearance of a Voskhod back-up cosmonaut. Sources in western intelligence claim that at least three undisclosed missions failed in the second half of the sixties, including a multiple launch in 1966.

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