On April 12th, 1961, a Russian man named Yuri Gagarin made history aboard a Soviet Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft.  For years, the United States and Soviet Union had been using the barrier between our world and beyond as a benchmark to test each nation’s greatest technological and engineering advances, and on that day, Gagarin achieved an incredible victory for the communist nation: he flew in space.

The space race was about far more than national pride, however, it was truly about global supremacy.  Each nation recognized the final frontier as both a tactical advantage for military operations and a public relations necessity – competition put the American people behind spending the money required to go up against the Red giant, and victory would benefit morale nationwide.  However, the Soviets did not need the public’s approval for expenditures, opting instead to announce each mission toward the unknown only after its successful completion, leaving their people under the impression that the Soviet program was incapable of failure.

In recent years, however, stories have begun to emerge about failed Soviet space missions and their policy of ensuring the media, the public, and their American competition never learned of their missteps.

Photographs surfaced in the 1970s depicting early Cosmonauts (Soviet Astronauts) at work and on vacation with one another, but because of confusion regarding which photographs had been published, Soviet news managers accidentally released never before seen versions of the images.  When previously published images were compared to the images that were released in the seventies, inconsistencies began to surface.  Most notable among these issues were missing Cosmonauts; the Soviet government had actually airbrushed entire people out of group photographs, opting to pretend these men were never a part of the program to begin with.


When confronted about these alterations, the Soviet Government made a number of fumbled attempts at explaining why they felt the need to forge the images released to the public.  Finally, in the final years of Soviet reign, Gorbachev instructed Soviet journalists and historians to determine what truly happened to these “missing” and omitted men.  Their research revealed that most had been expelled from the program for behavior that made them unsuitable to be seen as heroes for the nation or had developed medical conditions that prohibited them from participating in space flight.  According to reports, the Soviet government had opted to remove them from records completely rather than explain away their failures in public.

All of this did little to sway American beliefs that the Soviets, even years after America claimed victory in the space race by landing on the moon, had more to hide than they were letting on.  While some Americans have gone so far as to travel to Russia to meet with some of these redacted cosmonauts to verify Soviet stories, not all of the men can be accounted for officially.