Sergei Vladimir IIyushin is a hero to Paul Tsarinsky. He believes that Sergei Vladimir IIyushin was the first man in space, but there are others that do not agree with his opinion.



  Some feel the story is false:

      Some feel the story is or might be true:


Mark Wade has a great web site dedicated to SPACEFLIGHT. We asked his permission to include images of Gagarin and Vostok 1 on this web page and he responded,
Sorry, but this entire story is a fraud and I object to your use of my copyrighted photos and the links to my site. If your site is truly educational and devoted to 'real life' heroes you will remove this page as soon as possible. Please check out Jim Oberg's articles (available on Mark Wades's web site) regarding myths, legends, and frauds concerning dead cosmonauts.

MY HERO received another comment from MARK WADE creator of a great web site on space history called, SPACEFLIGHT. Mark Wade is adament that the story on Ilyushin is a fraud.

This is really not a matter of controversy - this is an error of fact. You might as well allow people to submit pages of Hitler as their hero, maintaining that all those nasty stories of him killing millions of people were just slanders made up by his jealous enemies.

The entire early history of the Soviet manned space program has been declassified and we have piles of memoirs of cosmonauts, engineers, etc who participated. We know who was in the original cosmonaut team, who never flew, was dismissed, or was killed in ground tests. Ilyushin is not one of them.

To quote verbatim from Oberg as to the source of this story:

"By April 9th, every foreign newsman in Moscow was sitting by his radio set. On the next day, Dennis Ogden, the Moscow correspondent of the British Communist newspaper Daily Worker, scooped the world with his report that a man had been shot into space but had returned deranged and was now hidden away in a rest home. The pilot was indirectly identified as Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Sergeyevich Ilyushin, son of the aircraft designer and a famous test pilot in his own right. The cosmonaut, launched on April 7th or 8th, had circled the earth three times in his spaceship "Rossiya" ("Russia").

"Ogden was aware of the rumors and stories about an imminent manned space flight. There had been indications that it had almost been launched several times. Or perhaps it had really been launched, and the official silence implied that it had failed.

"Furthermore, he learned from other personal contacts that Lieutenant Colonel Ilyushin, who was a neighbor of Ogden's in Moscow, had been injured somehow and was in a hospital.

"Ogden concluded that the flight had already taken place and that Ilyushin was the pilot. With extra details from the U.S. Mercury program, he wrote his story and sent it out to London. The correspondent was wrong on so many particulars that he probably never even got to any real news leak. There was enough evidence flowing around Moscow to put his story together with.

The best argument against the report of this and earlier failures is the fact that when Gagarin was eventually launched, TASS released its first bulletin while he was still in flight.... If the flight had been preceded by unannounced failures, it is obvious that it would not have been announced until a successful completion had been achieved".


Laura Whitlock from NASA's Star Child Project wrote:

I am not a space historian, however I have researched this subject some since receiving several questions on the subject of killed cosmonauts of various names and who was first in orbit. I include below what I have read in books that I would trust more than a newspaper report, a Time magazine article, or a 1964 (cold war) version of anything.

I cannot stop you from linking to our site, however I cannot condone what this story says. I believe it perpetuates a myth. I also cannot grant permission to use our two images, since I do not own them and had to obtain permission to use them myself.

Laura Whitlock


Ms. Whitlock continued:

A recent TIME magazine noted that Komarov was the first space casulty when he died in 1967. I have a l964 Guinness book of World Records which contains a listing of Soviet manned space flights prior to Gagarin on April 12, 1961, most or all having fatal or tragic consequences for the cosmonauts. It refers to an April 9, l961 flight of a LT. COL. Vladimir Ilyushin (3 days before Gagarin's flight) indicating that LT. COL. Ilyushin made one voluntary and two further involuntary earth orbits, and became deranged. Whether Ilyushin lived or not is unclear. The l964 Guinness book also refers to at least nine other Soviet flights prior to Gagarin, beginning with Alexis Ledovsky in late l957 going to 200 miles; Serentyi Schiborin in Feb. l958; Andrei Mitkov in Jan. l959; Pyotr Dolgov in Oct. l960 who survived 30 minutes; Gennadiy Mikhailov in Feb. l961; three others in l960; and also the name of V.Zovodovski being report as a Soviet space casulty. What credence to you place on these accounts? Has there been any effort in Russia recently to get to the bottom of these reports, in the age of new, more open government under Yeltsin? any input you may have is appreciated.

The only mention I could find for Pyotr Dolgov is that he was part of the Volga program, which was a Soviet balloon program used to test life-support and pressure suits for the Vostok program. On 1 November 1962, Pyotr Dolgov parachuted out of his Volga balloon at 20,000 m. His suit depressurized at once and he died during the descent.

The first cosmonaut fatality was of Valentin Bondarenko on 23 March 1961. However, it was during a high altitude chamber test flight not a spaceflight. Garbled rumors of a cosmonaut death reached the West and soon became an industry for the Western media. An amateur radio station in Italy claimed to use its radio apparatus to pick up signals from stranded, dying cosmonauts and in 3 years wiped out an entire squad of cosmonauts. In fact, it is believed that Bondarenko's death was the only accident concealed from the public.

Selection of the group to be trained for manned space flight (and dubbed "cosmonauts") took place from October 1959 to January 1960 (so no one could have died BEFORE then!). Twenty Soviet Air Force pilots were selected. Of these, only 12 ever made it into space. Some were dismissed for a drunken brawl in late 1961. One left voluntarily. Two suffered from debilitating injuries. One failed a medical review and was drummed out.

The 6 men selected for intense training to be "first" in space were Kartashov, Varlamov, Gagarin, Titov, Nikolayev, and Popovich. Kartashov and Varlamov were injured and replaced by Nelyubov and Bykovsky.

In May 1960, Spaceship 1 was put into orbit carrying a dummy cosmonaut. It was the first flight of a capsule large enough to carry such a payload and the dummy (dubbed Ivan Ivanovich) flew on several subsequent flights along with canine companions. Dogs were first successfully put into orbit in August 1960 as the first "biological payload" in the capsule designed to carry mankind. The last preparatory flight was on 25 March 1961, carrying Ivan Ivanovich and a dog named Zvezdochka. All went well and the time had come for true human spaceflight. So, Gagarin made his flight in April.

It should be noted as well that many lost their lives in a terrible explosion at the Baikonour cosmodrome in late October 1960. Many of the deaths of top-level people in the space prgram were publically attributed to "aircraft accidents". This accident postponed the scheduled date of the first manned flight from December 1960 until the following Spring.

Good Resources:

The New Russian Space Programme: From Competition to Collaboration,
by Brian Harvey, 2nd edition, 1996.

The First Manned Spaceflight: Russia's Quest for Space,
by Vladimir Suvorov and Alexander Sabelnikov, 1997.
Note that one of the authors was a cinematographer responsible for documenting the Russian Space Program. He has no mention of Ilyushin and credits Gagarin as the first. He should know, he was there!

Handbook of Soviet Manned Space Flight,
by Nicholas Johnson, published sometime in 1970s.



The MY HERO staff asked Paul Tsarinsky to identify the source for his information on Ilyushin. His source, Dr. Elliott H. Haimoff, Senior Producer of Global Science Productions responded in detail, here is his e mail to MY HERO

Dear Sir/Madam:
We are a PBS-TV production company, and Paul Tsarinsky worked for us as an intern on our TV documentary project dealing with Ilyushin, which is how he got a hold of this story and was able to present it in such a detailed manner that few or no other people could have had any knowledge of. We have just recently finished a one-hour documentary for a new TV series that dealt with this whole issue.

We have spent five years working on this story, collecting evidence, interviewing Western reporters who were in Russia at the time and originally covered this story, tracking down Russian individuals who were involved in this event, and we have gone to Russia and interviewed Ilyushin himself. Ilyushin is still alive and well and living in Moscow, but he was very difficult to locate and get a hold of. he turned out to be a very unassuming, quiet, shy man, who lives a quiet life as a retired general but still dabbles in fighter jet designs. The story IS TRUE, and Ilyushin told us his story even though he's still scared to death to tell it on camera, but let us film him anyways. We had even interviewed a western journalist who recently had access to the Kremlin archives and saw internal memos and documents (never intended to be seen by Westerners at the time they were written in 1961) confirming the fact that Ilyushin went up into space first.

I am just disgusted with all of your doubters and "James Oberg"-type clones who have just been duped for the last 40 years, and are just expressing their 'sour grapes' over not being able to root out this story first, or hold up books and articles of 40 years of Russian propaganda and tell the world that this is the truth beyond any shadow of a doubt. Most people don't seem to understand that the whole nature of the Soviet empire was to be top secret, so it was relatively easy to cover-up such an event. In addition, our documentary also covered all of the circumstancial evidence that backed up Ilyushin's story, that looking at them in the cold light of hindsight, makes this story absolutely believable and credible, which doubters and so-called Russian space experts failed to piece together.

I would be most happy to send you or anyone else a copy of our TV documentary program to put to rest the issue of who went into space first, or we would be eager to argue this issue with anyone who may claim to know about this subject more than this production company (there obviously is no one who can even hope to claim to be anywhere near as versed in this whole matter as we are). Any person who just pooh-poohs this as a myth or a fraud, is in reality a fraud themselves who can only be considered a puppet to Russian propaganda. I am fully aware that we are having to break the image of almost 40 years of history, and every history book encyclopedia, etc. will ultimately have to be changed. However, we are confident that it will be noted in the history books that the other so-called Russian space experts will be remembered as having perpetuated the myth and fraud of Gagarin themselves, and Paul Tsarinsky will be remembered as being one of the first to turn on the lights to the truth.

We encourage the light of scrutiny and investigation into this matter and the opportunity to bring out our findings out into the open, and we will let the history books of the future decide who scurries for cover like roaches and holds up 40 year old Russian propaganda as their way of thinking that they know the truth about this issue and not being called an ignorant idiot.

I very much look forward to any input you or your colleagues or so-called Russian space experts may wish to offer.

All the best,
Dr. Elliott H. Haimoff
Senior Producer
Global Science Productions
619 North Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CALIFORNIA, USA, 90210

Another web site My Hero discovered with photos of Yuri Gagarin was created by Anders Thorsell. I e-mailed him and his reply was this... Itīs an interesting theory that Gagarin was not the first man in space. it seems logical as well cause the Soviets really wanted to make this event a major success.

There are also rumours that Gagarin was killed by the authorities, cause he started to doubt the Soviet system. The Soviet authorities may have taken the chance to illuminate him and to make Gagarin an even greater hero. Killed in a plane crash.


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