Forgotten Hero of the Stars: The Tragic Story of Valentin Bondarenko, the Cosmonaut Erased from History

  On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Gagarin circled the earth aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft, becoming the first Soviet astronaut to enter outer space by a spacecraft and the first in the world. Earthlings in space.
  However, Gagarin was not the only candidate for the Soviet cosmonaut. In the early days of the Soviet Union, there were countless test pilots before Gagarin, but their names were later quietly erased by Soviet officials and forgotten by history. Astronaut Bondarenko is an example.
  Bondarenko was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, in 1937 and graduated from the military academy in 1957. In 1960, Bondarenko entered the Soviet National Space Base for training. On April 28 of that year, after fierce competition, he stood out from 29 pre-selected astronauts and was incorporated into a four-person astronaut team, becoming the first batch of Soviet astronauts to be sent into space. Space astronaut.
  On March 13, 1961, Bondarenko was sent to the Soviet Air Force Laboratory No. 7 in Moscow to test the highly oxygenated state of the astronauts in the isolation pressure chamber while the simulated spacecraft was in the waiting stage. Below, the physical condition during decompression. On March 22, Bondarenko ended the trial. He took off the sensor and wiped his skin with a cotton ball dipped in alcohol, accidentally causing a fire. Flames instantly burst out in the isolation pressure chamber, and Bondarenko rushed to put it out. However, the isolation pressure chamber filled with high-concentration oxygen quickly turned into a sea of ​​​​fire, which was impossible to put out. Bondarenko was burned into a burning man. , looks terrible.
  The attendant outside the isolation pressure chamber discovered the fire through the TV monitor and immediately balanced the air pressure so that the isolation pressure chamber could be opened. It took the rescue team several minutes to open the hatch. Bondarenko, who had been burned beyond recognition by the fire, raised his burnt hands and said to the doctor who rushed in: “This is my fault, I take full responsibility… ”
  Bondarenko was immediately sent to the Moscow Burn Hospital for treatment. According to the doctor’s assessment, up to 90% of his body was burned, his hair and skin were all burned away, and his eyes were scorched. Doctors found only a blood vessel in his back heel where the drug could be injected. Bondarenko’s wife Anna was also taken to the hospital.
  Although Bondarenko was blind, he still felt the arrival of his wife. He said to her in a very weak voice: “Anna, my life is about to end.” According to the person’s recollection , Bondarenko died painfully on March 23, 1961, at the age of 24.
  The doctors rescued him for 8 hours. During the rescue, he groaned in pain many times: “It hurts so much. Please help me with the pain…” Astronaut Gagarin also visited the hospital. After he walked out of the ward, he lamented that Bondarenko had not fulfilled his ambition. die first.
  Bondarenko’s death was a Soviet state secret. The National Institute of Aerospace and Aeronautical Medical Sciences concealed it for a whole year. Bondarenko’s mother, Vera, did not receive the bad news until 1962. In 1982, Soviet immigrant Ji Jin first disclosed the news in a Russian-language magazine in West Germany. In 1984, Golyakhovsky, a Soviet surgeon who participated in Bondarenko’s rescue, published his memoirs “The Russian Doctor” in the West, describing the process of Soviet doctors’ rescue of Bondarenko.
  The Soviet Union did not allow public reporting of Bondarenko’s death until 1986. The first to publish a long report was the famous Soviet journalist and writer Golovanov.
  Less than three weeks after Bondarenko’s death, the Soviet Union successfully launched its first spacecraft. Had Bondarenko not been martyred by fire, he might have replaced Gagarin and become the first Soviet cosmonaut to enter space and enjoy political distinction. After Bondarenko’s death, the Soviet government posthumously awarded him the Order of the Red Star. Before her son was under 6 years old, Anna could still receive a monthly living allowance of more than 100 rubles. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, except for occasional visits from Bondarenko’s old comrades, mother and son were almost completely forgotten by the world.

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