The first death during a space flight might as well have been a murder. Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev wanted to stage a space spectacular to mark the 50th anniversary of the Russian revolution—a two-spacecraft mission that would involve a rendezvous, docking and spacewalk. The problem was, the spacecraft were jalopies. They had repeatedly failed safety and development tests and Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space and a powerful figure in the Soviet space program, pleaded for the launch to be scrubbed. Brezhnev would hear none of it, and prime crewman Vladimir Komarov was launched as planned. Almost as soon as he reached orbit, the problems and breakdowns began. The launch of the second spacecraft was quickly canceled, and he was ordered to try to come home—which was a very dicey proposition since the spacecraft’s guidance system had collapsed. Komarov, with no other option, began his descent and knew almost immediately he was going to die. Former premier Alexei Kosygin radioed up to the ship, praising Komarov’s courage and declaring him a hero of the Soviet Union. Komarov would not be mollified and — according to an account in the recently published book Starman, about the life of Gagarin — he died cursing the people who had put him in such a dangerous spacecraft. The U.S. was monitoring the transmissions from listening posts in Turkey and recordings of the Kosygin-Komarov exchange survive.