How Many Died?

Man in space! Last week’s dramatic announcement from Moscow, though expected, still gave the world its biggest thrill for many years.


So, over 50 years ago, starts a story in Electronics Weekly’s edition of April 19th 1961.


(The week before, Yuri Gagarin had become the first man in space on April 12th 1961)


The story continues:


But now the first excitement, even hysteria, in some circles – has evaporated, it is time to attempt an assessment of what the great Soviet achievement really means and to place it in its true technical perspective.


It may be safely assumed that Soviet guidance and control systems, communications, telemetry and other instrumentation is of a very high order.


This is amply indicated by the precision with which vehicles have been successfully orbited and recovered, although we don’t know how many failures may have occurred over the years.


It is very probable that many launchings have failed in one way or another and that news of these has been ruthlessly suppressed.


Some American columnists are convinced that men have perished in previous Soviet man-in-space attempts.

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  1. ewelec
    November 07, 2012 11:41

    Yep, vodkas are not as good these days as those were 20 years ago. Btw, did you hear IBM sold 90 nm technology to Angstrem-T and will go further?

  2. David Manners
    November 07, 2012 11:37

    You’re probably right, Pitchfork, maybe Oscar Wilde was a bit harsh – maybe people should try it once.

  3. David Manners
    November 07, 2012 11:29

    Glad to hear it, Sergei, like most non-Russians I’m mystified how Russia works. We need to sort this over a few beers and not too many vodkas.

  4. Pitchfork
    November 07, 2012 11:23

    Nothing wrong with Morris Dancing!!

  5. ewelec
    November 07, 2012 11:17

    David, that’s really a joke, Izvestia was my favourite newspaper then as it was the evening edition anв delivered right news and right in time. OK, we had to get used to some limitations and restrictions but I would say we all felt much more secure both in environment and in life planning. Bad it or not, but the party somehow replaced the church in giving instructions how to live through a good, healthy and inspirational life… the big problem was that the bureaucracy took over after Khruschev’s coup and we ended up with the olygarch regime…

  6. David Manners
    November 07, 2012 11:05

    Sergei how lovely to hear from you. Yes I saw Alexander in Bratislava and had a few beers with him but we didn’t talk about the Russian semiconductor industry. Can’t precisely recall what we did talk about but I do remember we had a lot of laughs. Yes the Russian media have been very brave and very clever at disseminating the truth but I recall the old Russian Cold War crack: “There’s no news in Izvestia and no truth in Pravda”.

  7. ewelec
    November 07, 2012 10:49

    Yes, you are right. Have not seen you for long, but I have not travelled much to Europe during the past 2 years, business is growing here in Russia and I have to stay close to the customers. But I think you met with Alex at IEF? Did he tell you about big changes in Russia’s semiconductor industry?
    Coming back to the press issue I may only say that it was as free as it could be and even more. Journalists and writers always tried to bring the truth by using Aesopian language and it was the editor in chief’s final decision to let it go. OK, we were watching the world through the camera of the Soviet TV journalist but there was still access to the news and literature from all over the world. My family had subscriptions to (AFAIR) 5-6 daily and 4-5 weekly newspapers, 12+ monthly magazines (including “America” and “Great Britain”) and that was great to live with then. Internet today does not provide as much information as we could have then, provided that life was quite different in pace 30 years ago…

  8. David Manners
    November 07, 2012 09:16

    Aha, so you’re Sergei, ewelec.

  9. ewelec
    November 06, 2012 23:05

    ewelec stands for East-West Electronics, the JV launched on 16/08/1991…
    Well, if more people here might be interested in the Russia/USSR/Russia history of the past 100+ years, I would be very much keen to talk over that here. And, I think I can discuss that between 1917 and now Russian/USSR/Russian press was not as “not free” as in anywhere in the world.
    The funny thingies are that we had the “Saraphan Radio” and “Kitchen Auditoriums” that helped us filter out the mess and come to the healthy ideas, whatever the regime was.

  10. David Manners
    November 06, 2012 20:58

    Well I have a few Russian pals, ewelec, but I can’t think of any who think there has been a free press in Russia since 1917 – unless I haven’t been following conversations with sufficient attantion, which can sometimes be the case in Russia, I’ve found. Feel free to talk about anything on Mannerisms – no subject should be barred among free-thinking people (except, as they say, Morris Dancing and incest).

  11. ewelec
    November 06, 2012 20:42

    I do not have a black and white answer for that.
    I doubt we should discuss what individuals (i.e. S and S) did under the circumstances then, years ago, and in a different universe – in the electronics blog – or should we?
    Would you ask me to continue, please do. Alternatively, we may talk between us, we have been known to each other for 20 years )))

  12. David Manners
    November 06, 2012 17:07

    Are you saying Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov were talking balls, ewelec?

  13. ewelec
    November 06, 2012 16:23

    Now, 21 years after the USSR collapse I honestly confirm that you are absolutely right. We missed a unique chance for the transformation of the system into more humane and socialist… which began with free press in late 80s (and, btw, in March-October 1917). The historical jokes are that in 1917 and 1991 noone wanted or felt strong enough to take power, only Lenin and Yeltzin challenged. Here we come…

  14. David Manners
    November 06, 2012 16:09

    It sounds, ewelec, as if the Soviets would have been better off with a free press after 1917 so the world could have heard about the comfortable, benign conditions in which the Russian people were so fortunate to live.

  15. ewelec
    November 06, 2012 15:58

    I would only add that the Russian space program was managed by Sergey Korolev, who indeed take care of safety and reliability of the rockets and spaceships and would never risk human lives. It was also reported that he avoided unnecessary launches of animals and provided as much comfort as possible even for the dogs and monkeys. All reported catastrophs happened after Sergey Korolev died.
    And, I would also invite you to change your mind about the horrors of the Soviet times, as many of these were exagerated for political reasons even at USSR/ex-USSR. I would suggest to read Grover Furr’s ( book (Khrushchev Lied. The Evidence That Every “Revelation” of Stalin’s (and Beria’s) Crimes in Nikita Khrushchev’s Infamous “Secret Speech” to the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on February 25, 1956, is Provably False. Kettering, OH: Erythros Press & Media. 2011.). A brief marxist analysis of this book is on to begin with…
    And, it was actually Beria who managed the USSR A-and H-bomb projects and the missile project from the very beginning… Well, I may say that his efforts lead to the birth of the USSR semiconductor industry which had been developing quite independently and successfully for years until CPSU decided to copy western technologies.

  16. David Manners
    November 06, 2012 14:16

    Thanks for that, SEPAM, what a very long list. I suppose that, if they ever get round to the dark side of the moon and find the corpse of a KGB dwarf, then we’ll have some definitive evidence.

  17. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan
    November 06, 2012 12:51

    Astronautix has been rather informative in teh past, see this article:

  18. David Manners
    November 06, 2012 11:52

    That’s quite a statement, ewelec, I’d like to know your evidence for that. I don’t know but the Russians never gave much value to human life in WW2 or in The Gulag or in the Ukraine famine, so why should they bother about launching a few astronauts prematurely? Especially in a Soviet dictatorship which had 100% control over the media. They could get away with anything. Of course the US media, miffed that the Russkies got into space first, may well have surmised, on little evidence, that the Soviets had risked and lost life to win that race. It was at the height of the Cold War remember. But will we ever know the truth? I doubt it. I plucked it out of a 50 year-old Electronics Weekly because it showed the tenor of the times

  19. ewelec
    November 06, 2012 11:26

    Noone died in space before Gagarin’s launch, there might be confusions then as one of the pilots of the first team of cosmonauts was fired off (not “fired”). And, there were launches with mannequins (i.e. “Ivan”) that could be mistakingly seen by public as “dead pilots”.
    Just wonder, why did this publication attract your attention?

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