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Pravda Announces the Death of Komarov

By rlkitterman
On April 25, 1967, the Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda announced the death of Colonel Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov, the first man to be killed during spaceflight.  He died the previous day when he could not open the parachute while trying to land the Soyuz 1 capsule, and he could be heard swearing on the radio as he plummeted toward the ground.  As an engineer, Komarov knew the Soyuz capsule had been thrown together in a hurry to beat the American Apollo capsule in the race to the Moon, and criticized the design as defective, but his concern went unheeded by the authorities.  The next day, his fellow cosmonauts wrote in Pravda:

For the forerunners it is always more difficult. They tread the unknown paths and these paths are not straight, they have sharp turns, surprises and dangers. But anyone who takes the pathway into orbit never wants to leave it. And no matter what difficulties or obstacles there are, they are never strong enough to deflect such a man from his chosen path. While his heart beats in his chest, a cosmonaut will always continue to challenge the universe. Vladimir Komarov was one of the first on this treacherous path.

After Komarov's death and funeral, criticism of the Soviet space program became more public.  In May 1967, his friend Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, told Komsomolskaya Pravda that the Soyuz 1 disaster should make the authorities more attentive to "all stages of checking and testing" for "all the mechanisms of the spaceship."  Later on, Gagarin and another cosmonaut, pioneering spacewalker Alexei Leonov, more directly criticized Vasily Mishin, the director of the space program, for "poor knowledge of the Soyuz spacecraft and the details of its operation" as well as "his lack of cooperation in working with the cosmonauts in flight and training activities."  Mishin would not be fired until 1974, though, by which time his technical ignorance had led to the disastrous failure of the N1 moon rocket and the loss of the Space Race to the USA.

Together with the Apollo 1 fire that killed three American astronauts, the Soyuz 1 crash made the public more aware of the risks of space exploration, though there would be many more disasters to come, namely the nearly-fatal Apollo 13 mission, the decompression of Soyuz 11, and the losses of the American space shuttles Challenger and Columbia.  This copy of the front page of Pravda is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  According to the headline below Komarov's portrait, he was awarded his second Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union after his death, as well as his second Order of Lenin.
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2374x3010px 1.69 MB
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1/10 second
Focal Length
5 mm
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Date Taken
Jun 21, 2014, 8:10:56 AM
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