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July 29th, 2008

Nine of our cosmonauts are missing

Here's a fascinating Fortean Times piece on two Italian radio fans who managed to tap into the Russian (and American) space communications networks back in the early 1960s. In between charting the triumphs of the space race, they also recorded the last words of several cosmonauts - names and faces that have been erased from history.

A rather amazing story:
Midnight, 19 May 1961. A crisp frost had descended on Turin’s city centre which was deserted and deathly silent. Well, almost. Two brothers, aged 20 and 23, raced through the grid-like streets (that would later be made famous by the film The Italian Job) in a tiny Fiat 600, which screamed in protest as they bounced across one cobbled piazza after another at top speed.

The Fiat was loaded with dozens of iron pipes and aluminium sheets which poked out of windows and were strapped to the roof. The car screeched to a halt outside the city’s tallest block of flats. Grabbing their assorted pipes, along with a large toolbox, the two brothers ran up the stairs to the rooftop. Moments later, the city’s silence was rudely broken once more as they set to work: a concerto of hammering, clattering, sawing and shouting.

Suddenly, an angry voice rang out; the man who lived on the floor below leant out of the window and screamed: “Will you stop that racket, I’m trying to sleep!”

One of the young men shouted back “Sorry sir; the Soviets have launched a satellite and we’re trying to intercept it!”
Well worth a read. And well worth a pause for a few moments to remember those nameless pioneers.

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