Gagarin in Plovdiv

08.09.2012 § Leave a comment

On May 23, 1961, 41 days after completing his pioneering spaceflight, first man in space Yuri Gagarin visited Plovdiv on his celebratory tour. He had coffee on the terrace of Hotel Trimontium with various dignitaries and he was made an honorary citizen of Plovdiv. This makes Plovdiv one of only 22 cities to do so, which is claim to fame enough.

However, what was known to very few people until days ago was that he had signed the hotel’s guestbook. « Read the rest of this entry »

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Bulgaria’s First Cosmonaut and the Near-Disaster of Soyuz 33

14.06.2012 § 1 Comment

Prologue

Since the late 1950’s, the USSR and the United States have been grappling for space supremacy. Many know and speak of the heroic chapters in this struggle, the milestones each nation achieved, and the disasters it had to endure when testing the boundaries of space. To this day, 2% of the vehicles launched in space have killed their crew, and many disasters have been narrowly averted. The US has had the benefit of an ocean to splash down into and the use of multi-launch vehicles, while the Soviet and Russian space program has been landing on hard ground in the Siberian steppes.

America has lost 14 astronauts: seven in the Challenger disaster during liftoff in 1986 and seven in the Columbia shuttle reentry in 2003. The Russian space program, in contrast, has so far lost only four: Vladimir Komarov, commander of Soyuz 1, whose main parachute failed to open on reentry in 1967, and the three-man crew of Soyuz 11, killed by depressurization during re-entry in 1971. Add to the list of fatalities the death of three astronauts in the launchpad fire on Apollo 1 (also in the ill-fated 1967), several test flight deaths (including that of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin), and a couple of very, very close calls.

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