A Day in Astronomy: The Death of Yuri Gagarin

Image (Credit): Mourners hold photographs of Gagarin and Seryogin in Red Square on March 30, 1968. (Radio Free Europe)

On this day in 1968, Russian pilot and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who was the first human in space, died in a MIG-15 crash northwest of Moscow. The crash killed a second pilot, Vladimir Seryogin.

Following the accident, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the following statement:

YURI GAGARIN’S courageous and pioneering flight into space opened new horizons and set a brilliant example for the spacemen of our two countries. I extend the deep sympathy of the American people to his family and to relatives of Colonel Engineer Vladimir Seryogin.

In 2013, The Daily Mail reported that the cause of the crash was an “unauthorised SU-15 fighter” flying too close to Gagarin’s aircraft. Over the years, there had been plenty of rumors about other causes, but this final report appears to put all of these past rumors to rest.