There was a time, okay, how about this, Once upon a time, long long ago, there were two countries who were at odds with one another. They had helped one another win a great war, along with others, against a vicious, nasty Nazi type country. But then they had a falling out. The Western Government didn't listen to their General, a Hero of the war, about immediately kicking the Eastern nation out of the defeated country, and so they split in half, the country defeated, right down the middle and a major city in the middle of the Eastern half, also right down the middle.
This lead to many years of consternations and deceits between the countries and effectively split the entire world into two camps, except for a few countries who tried to stay out of it..
Many died secretly in a "Cold War". Finally they started to fight more and more intellectually, eventually leading to a "Space Race" when one country shot a large hollow "BB" into space that could transfer communications signals.
They other country didn't like this, so they tried to do the same. Then the first country, the one with the big "BB" (called, Cпутник-1, in their language, or Sputnik in the Western language, meaning, Elementary Satellite-1), shot a man into space and they seemed so cool, for a short time, until the other country sent one of their men into space.
From Wikipedia: "Sputnik 1 was launched during the International Geophysical Year from Site No.1, at the 5th Tyuratam range, in Kazakh SSR (now at the Baikonur Cosmodrome). The satellite travelled at 29,000 kilometers (18,000 mi) per hour, taking 96.2 minutes to complete an orbit, and emitted radio signals at 20.005 and 40.002 MHz which were monitored by amateur radio operators throughout the world. The signals continued for 22 days until the transmitter batteries ran out on 26 October 1957. Sputnik 1 burned up on 4 January 1958, as it fell from orbit upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, after travelling about 60 million km (37 million miles) and spending 3 months in orbit."
But the Eastern country was very good at making themselves look good and they weren't above lying (neither was the Western country, but they actually were more advanced and a richer nation altogether).
So for many years, decades, the world believed that the Eastern country had been the first to put an electrified hunk of metal and then a man into space first. And actually, no one is saying that isn't true.
In an attempt to look good, to be thought of as never making a mistake, something the Eastern country was very good at affecting (and it is quite well known that in controlling type authority systems, looking "bad" or being seen to be "weak" or not "perfect" in anyway is anathema to those in control); the Eastern country may have hidden that there were other things and men put into space that failed.
For the hunks of metal, this means rockets that never made it off the launching pad, that blew up on the way up or were lost in space once they achieved orbit. This isn't a big deal and the Western country went through bad launches many times themselves. But they never lost a man.
However, the Eastern country saw that the individual was far less of an importance than the entire entity of itself as a nation, and that, meant people.
The question is, were there those individuals before the first? Why wouldn't they be mentioned? Obviously, because they did not survive.
It has been conjectured that there was another before Yuri Gargarin, who was that first man in space, and who was alleged to be what the American Astronauts called, "Spam in a can", meaning, a not a pilot but a passenger, like a monkey. Yuri, appears to have been basically that. He was also alleged to be an alcoholic, but what kind of comment is that in a country where that is a common and socially acceptable situation until only recently?
According to a blog called Multiplication by Infinity by Fallen Idol: The Yuri Gagarin Conspiracy.
Steven says: "The filmmakers contend that five days before Gagarin's April 12, 1961 flight, another cosmonaut, Vladimir Ilyushin, was launched into space but after three orbits the mission went awry and Ilyushin was severely injured in a crash landing in mainland China where he was held, possibly as a prisoner, for many months, though the Soviets claimed he was there for treatments related to an auto accident."
|Yuri's rocket type|
He then goes on to say something very interesting: "My own feelings would be that this is crackpot conspiracy bunk, except that I recently befriended a fellow Mechanical Engineer, 70, who was a professor of Aeronautical Engineering in Smolensk, and immigrated to America as soon as Yeltsin came to power. He's definitely one of the most intelligent people I've ever met, and he insists Gagarin was the 3rd launched attempt by the Soviets to orbit and safely return a cosmonaut to Earth, and that the first 2 failed. I intend to press him for details. Stay tuned ..."
I find that all very intriguing.
I also do not find it a fabulous statement or consideration to, well, consider.
Yes, the Eastern country is the old Soviet Union and the Western one the United States. You're too smart for me to continue THAT conceit any longer, surely.
I do not have any difficulty in believing that there was one, and even more likely three, who went and died before Yuri. Three may be stretching it, but one, I really have no issue in believing.