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Soviet documents may explain cosmonaut Gagarin's death

Sydsvenskan archive

Soviet-era documents that could shed light on Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin’s mysterious death 43 years ago were declassified on Friday.

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A top Kremlin official said that Gagarin's death during a training flight in 1968 was probably the result of swerving sharply in an effort to avoid a weather balloon.

The young cosmonaut wowed the then-Soviet Union and the rest of the world as the first man to journey into outer space in 1961 in the Vostok 1 spaceship.

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He toured the world promoting the Soviet space programme. The Soviet space agency reportedly chose Gagarin not only for his physical strength but also for his smile and easy-going personality that also translated well to international audiences.

“It’s a very pretty sight that I am incapable of describing. For that maybe you’ll need to invite writers into outer space,” he said on a Russian television show, shortly after his trip to outer space.

After the fame won by his solo flight, Gagarin returned to Star City, the cosmonaut facility, where he worked on designs for reuseable spacecraft. Although he rose in rank, Soviet officials tried to keep him away from flying, as they were worried about losing their hero in a crash.

But on 27 March 1968, while on a routine training flight from Chkalovsky Air Base, he and flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin died in a Mig crash.

Magomed Tolboyev, a former cosmonaut, said this week that Gagarin was probably rusty after not flying for eight years, and his abrupt turn probably caused his death.

Even with declassifed documents, there is still a lot of speculation surrounding Gagarin’s death.

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