Cosmonauts before Gagarin?

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While browsing Wikipedia's article on the history of the space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union, I came across the conspiracy theory talking about possible cosmonauts before Yuri Gagarin who may have gone into space but failed and ended up dead/missing.

Wikipedia said:
Although Gagarin is indisputably the first man to survive space travel, there is a conspiracy theory that the Russians had previously launched two human beings into orbit prior to Gagarin, but both cosmonauts died enroute or alternatively, one died while one landed off-course and was held by the Chinese government.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Gagarin

The conspiracy theory on wikipedia linked externally to http://www.lostcosmonauts.com/. It made a few claims, but it didn't really back it up with evidence. There were a few .ra sounds of recordings taken by the "Judica Cordiglia brothers." Surely someone else on Earth would have picked up transmissions like the ones the "Judica Cordiglia brothers" have.

Later in the site, they also have a translation of a female cosmonauts' voice of a failed re-entry here: http://www.lostcosmonauts.com/tradeng.htm. It doesn't sound very authentic, especially the repeated "FORTYONE."

The mission crew photos were also questionable... http://www.lostcosmonauts.com/erased.htm

The site also at one point has a crackpot tone to it:

http://www.lostcosmonauts.com/curtain.htm said:
It is interesting to note the reaction of some well-known western "experts" on soviet space history to the revelations that are coming out of the Russian Federation.
These "experts" have built their reputation on their interpretation of the soviet space program and they now blindly refuse to examine this new evidence.
While the conspiracy theory does present an interesting argument, there are a few things I don't understand. The Soviet Union collapsed a while ago, so why hasn't this information, if it is true, released like the other aspects of the Soviet space program? The site listed above mentions "for reasons unknown" but I find it rather suspect, and says that their information is completely true :uhh: .

Since it is known that we mustn't trust everything we see on internet, I can't trust this site as a reliable source of information.

It is an interesting thought though, is it possible that the former Soviet Union might have sent up cosmonauts before Gagarin? Is there a reliable source for any indications or claims made to substantiate the (somewhat suspicious) rantings of "The Lost Cosmonauts" website?

Or is this just another conspiracy theory that doesn't really amount to anything?
 

Answers and Replies

Evo
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The first logical question would be, was the fact that Gagarin was going up known to anyone before he landed succesfully?

If the answer is yes, then the conspiracy theory is bunk. If the answer is "no one knew the Soviet Union had sent a man up until AFTER he landed, then there might be reason to think that there could have been previous failed attempts.

Think about it. If all the manned flights prior to Gagarin were kept a secret and failed, it makes no sense that they would let out that he was going up with a 100% failure rate. Why pre-announce a probable failure when all the past flights had been kept secret?
 
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Evo said:
The first logical question would be, was the fact that Gagarin was going up known to anyone before he landed succesfully?

If the answer is yes, then the conspiracy theory is bunk. If the answer is "no one knew the Soviet Union had sent a man up until AFTER he landed, then there might be reason to think that there could have been previous failed attempts.
Unfortunately this is a question that I cannot answer myself personally, but Google has some better results. From space.edu's site on the history of space travel by John Graham, which is a credible source:

http://www.space.edu/projects/book/chapter12.html [Broken]

In 1959 the Soviet government began to recruit military pilots for cosmonaut training. The initial screening of the candidates took place in October and the final selection of twenty pilots occurred in February 1960. Training for the cosmonaut corps began on March 14, 1960 and the curriculum was almost totally aviation medicine.
Notice the dates. Cosmonaut training begain on March 14th (with selection of intial cosmonauts in January), and Gagarin's successful space launch was on April 12th, 1961. "The Lost Cosmonauts" cite possible launch dates on February 2nd, 1961; April 7th, 1961; and May 16th, 1961.

Gagarin (like any other astronaut/cosmonaut in-training) would have to undergo extensive physical and mental preparation for going into space, in this case it took a year. If the Soviet government wanted to avoid a catastrophe, they wouldn't just rush training for the cosmonauts involved.

There is also a big inconsistency in the dates... Why would the Soviet government have another launch planned on the 12th if they were going to originally send up a rocket on the 7th? Why plan another launch (which can take months of preparation) to coincide as a "backup" for the "original"... and why would they do it if they were certain that the first one would fail?

Something obviously isn't holding up with this particular theory.

Evo said:
Think about it. If all the manned flights prior to Gagarin were kept a secret and failed, it makes no sense that they would let out that he was going up with a 100% failure rate. Why pre-announce a probable failure when all the past flights had been kept secret?
Hmm.. I never thought about that, but you have a point there. Also, why would they send him up if there was such a high failure rate. Usually governments refine their space programs when accidents occur.

edit: another thing just noticed... Gagarin had a backup himself, Ghermond Titov. It would make absolutely no sense for the Soviet government to have a backup for the backup.
 
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Evo
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Your link also states that there was a press conference prior to Gagarin being sent up. "On April 10 the training schedule was interrupted by a government board meeting with photographers and journalists. At this meeting Korolev announced that Gagarin would be first with Titov as his backup."

The conspiracy theory makes no sense.
 
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Evo said:
Your link also states that there was a press conference prior to Gagarin being sent up. "On April 10 the training schedule was interrupted by a government board meeting with photographers and journalists. At this meeting Korolev announced that Gagarin would be first with Titov as his backup."
Another good point. There would be no use in having the press interview Gagarin if he were a backup, they would have done so for the "original."

Also (yet another thing), Korolev, the overseer of the space launches for the Soviets, was described as being very safety-conscious and wouldn't just send cosmonauts to their death.

http://www.space.edu/projects/book/chapter14.html [Broken]

Evo said:
The conspiracy theory makes no sense.
Then why in the world do these theories keep being perpetuated? :confused: Now that we know that this particular theory has many holes in it when stacked up against historical evidence, just by probing and collecting data and comparing it to the conspiracy theory (which now amounts to nothing), why are there still people who believe in it? Especially since in a manner of a few minutes, it is immediately noticed that things don't stack up in a normal manner.

Hmm.. perhaps the idea of it, which would make an interesting sci-fi story, is sensational and can possibly be marketed. Who knows. I did remember the theory being mentioned on the movie K-19 Widowmaker between a colloquial conversation between two naval crewmembers.

edit: It seems that the theory is supposed to perpetuate an anti-Soviet governmental viewpoint, it seems Stalinistic in nature; as popularized by the lack of human dignity evident in this theory (sort of like the WWII "Not One Step Backward!" propaganda during the war). But... this is during the time period after Stalin, after efforts of de-Stalinization, and during the post-war reforms of Khrushchev and so forth. Anyway, the early space program wasn't laid out like the Red Army... throwing manpower at the problem without first securing the technological infrastructure would definitely not work.
 
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