Saturday, April 09, 2011


During the height of the Cold war and Space Race, on 12th april 1961,fifty years ago, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into outerspace in Vostok 1, he returned back a soviet hero. After 6 years Soyuz 1 carried a cosmonaut who never returned. This cosmonaut was Yuri Gagarin's friend and maybe the only man to be well informed of his inevitable demise even before the launch, Vladmir Komarov.

(Vladmir Komarov's remains in an open casket. image sourced from Robert Krulwich's blog that runs the original post on Starman, here.)
Robert Krulwich writes:
"Starman tells the story of a friendship between two cosmonauts, Vladimir Kamarov and Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human to reach outer space. The two men were close; they socialized, hunted and drank together.
In 1967, both men were assigned to the same Earth-orbiting mission, and both knew the space capsule was not safe to fly. Komarov told friends he knew he would probably die. But he wouldn't back out because he didn't want Gagarin to die. Gagarin would have been his replacement...
...Russayev asked, Why not refuse? According to the authors, Komarov answered: "If I don't make this flight, they'll send the backup pilot instead." That was Yuri Gagarin. Vladimir Komarov couldn't do that to his friend. "That's Yura," the book quotes him saying, "and he'll die instead of me. We've got to take care of him." Komarov then burst into tears."
Though there are lot of questions raised with regards to the validity of its sources by numerous historians, the story of Komarov sacrificing himself for his friend Yuri and the Soviet Motherland is an instant hit, it touches something within us that is a sucker for such heroism. Given an option between a history filled with blind spots and footnotes that turn it into just another event recorded on the time line of human existence and the history that Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony's Starman attempts to write, I will choose the later any day.
And all this is simply because just like Piscine Patel, we all have our Richard Parkers and given a choice we all will pick the story with animals, simply because it is beautiful. Speaking of Cosmonauts and beautiful stories, here is one in the making.

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