I don't know about other writers, but I keep a LOT of books on my shelves for reference. These days, I putter through the oldest of them, looking for nuggets of esoterica and inspiration you can't find on the web - stuff that was written a long time ago and has never been digitized.
According to a story in one of these books, "Strange World" by Frank Edwards, published in 1964, today is the anniversary of a mystery (or cover up) from the Cold War space:
On the morning of February 17, 1961, a giant Soviet booster blasted off from the Russian base at Baikonour near the Aral Sea. A few minutes after take off, tracking stations outside the Soviet Union had detected the launching and were tracking the flight of the lunik capsule.
""This much was routine. Word had leaked out that the next Soviet space effort would be a manned orbit of the moon, and that may well have been the purpose of the shot on February 17, 1961. If it was intended for a moon shot it failed, because it never attained sufficient speed to escape from the earth's gravitational pull. It turned into just another orbital launch—and that in turn developed into a tragedy when the Russians were unable to bring the capsule back from orbit.
"Tracking stations around the globe recorded the voices of a man and a woman who occupied the luckless capsule. For seven days and nights the doomed pair reported at regular intervals to their space bases inside the Soviet Union. Listeners outside Russia were puzzled at this pro-longed flight—and at Russia's strange silence about it. Although it exceeded anything that had been accomplished up to that time, the Soviets never mentioned it.
"Time after time, day and night, the pair in the capsule that was to be their sepulcher radioed down the cryptic message: "Everything satisfactory. We are maintaining the prescribed altitude." The climax to this eerie venture came in the early evening hours of February 24, 1961.
"Tracking stations at Uppsala, Bochum, Turin, and Meudon all recorded the final broadcast from the two ill-starred cosmonauts. After the customary statement that conditions were good and that the capsule was maintaining the prescribed altitude, there was a brief pause. Then the male voice: "We can read the dials. The signals are not clear, however. We see nothing."
"Then followed a silence of about five seconds, after which a woman's voice interjected: "I'll make it and hold tight with my right hand! Only this way can we maintain equilibrium. Look out the peep-hole! Look out the peephole! I have it. . . ."
"A few seconds later the male voice exclaimed: "Here! Here there is something! THERE IS SOMETHING! It's difficult. . . ." After a pause of several seconds, he continued, "If we do not get out, the world will never hear about it. It is difficult. . . ."
"At that point a Soviet transmitter broke in to announce that it was 8 P.M. Moscow time. When the station had ceased transmitting the time, the signals from the Lunik capsule had vanished into the silence of outer space—and they were never resumed."
The Soviet Union never acknowledged this supposed launch. Anyone every hear this story?
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