When people think about astronauts, they are quickly reminded of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, two men who crewed the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
They walked on the lunar surface, taking one small step for man, one giant leap for humanity, and planted the American flag.
However, they were not the first men in space. That honor lies not with an astronaut but with a Cosmonaut, which is the same thing, except Russian.
The 1960s were arguably the height of the Cold War, the quiet struggle of America and Russia to assert themselves as the dominant power following World War II, and nothing encapsulated that soft power struggle more than the space race where either country pushed the limits to put men into the final frontier where no man had ever gone.
America won out by putting men on the moon, but they couldn’t have done it without Russia’s help. Russia put its man in space first.
They also lost their man in a hideous technical failure, the first death in space, which allowed the Americans to figure out the landing half of the space-race equation so their astronauts could be the first men into space to come back alive.
10 /10 Cosmonaut Candidate
Vladimir Mikhaylovich Komarov was Russia’s answer to the space race. He was one of many aerospace engineers, test pilots, and one of the first true cosmonauts in history.
He was born in Moscow in 1927 and grew up in a relatively poor, essential labor family. But he had dreams of his own and the skills to accomplish them.
His talents with math and deep interest in aeronautics led him to make a working propeller in his spare time in the hopes of flying.
9 /10 War Scholar
Komarov spent his later schooling in the 1st Moscow Special Air Force School to become a pilot of some kind. Flying was all he wanted to do until World War II broke out.
Then he wanted to be a particular kind of pilot. Throughout the war, the school was moved into Siberia as Moscow was dangerously close to the progressively pushing front lines.
Komarov’s father died due to “war activities,” He was ready to join the fight, but the fighting ended before he graduated. He continued his training until he was a lieutenant in the Soviet Air Force.