The Judica-Cordiglia brothers are two Italian former amateur radio operators who made audio recordings that allegedly support the conspiracy theory that the Soviet space program covered up cosmonaut deaths in the 1960s. The pair claimed to have acquired recordings of several secret Soviet space missions that ended in tragedy and mystery. This has generated public interest for more than 50 years, despite there being a large number of detailed rebuttals to the brothers' claims.
Achille (b. Paderno Dugnano, 1933 - d. Turin, 2015) and his brother Giovanni Battista (b. Erba, 1939) set up their own experimental listening station just outside Turin. They began to pick up the signals in October 1957. The brothers used a disused German bunker at a site named Torre Bert. Working with scavenged and improvised equipment, they claimed to have successfully monitored transmissions from the Soviet Sputnik program and Explorer 1, the first American satellite, using equipment that recorded flight information such as telemetry, voice recordings and visual data.
The following month, the Soviets sent the dog Laika into space, the first animal to orbit the Earth. The Judica Cordiglia brothers claimed to have intercepted signals from this release. Achille, a medical student at the time, identified the animal's heartbeat. To verify, they woke up their father, a doctor and a college professor, and compared the sounds to his pet dog.
On November 28, 1960 they made recordings that they claimed refuted the idea that Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space. The Bochum Radioastronomical Observatory in West Germany reported that it had received signals different from those that used to come from Soviet satellites. The Judica Cordiglia brothers also picked up on these signs, and claimed to have heard an SOS message in Morse code. Based on the Doppler effect, they deduced that the spacecraft was moving further away from Earth, rather than orbiting. "Two days later, once again, the Soviet Union announced that it has put a 7.5-ton spacecraft into orbit, and that it has disintegrated. Strange coincidence," noted Achille in the TV documentary "I pirati dello spazio" (The Space Pirates), made in 2007. Moscow has always denied that it was a manned flight. The historical flight of Gagarin is also in the documents of the two brothers. In the film, they show a recording made the morning of April 12, 1961, which they claimed to be conversations between the cosmonaut and mission control.
On May 23, 1961 the brothers claimed to have recorded a female voice speaking in Russian, saying "it is very hot," "I see flame," and asking if the ship is going to destroy itself, before the signal is interrupted.
Their listening activities came to an end in 1965. On April 7, Radio Moscow, an official vehicle of the Soviet government, said the recordings were false and denied the information that there could be lost cosmonauts. According to the brothers, the claims of Radio Moscow were an attempt to silence them.
In total the Judica-Cordiglia brothers released nine recordings over a period of four years.
Since the 1960s, critical analysis of the recordings has cast doubt on their provenance. For instance, audio transcripts reveal that none of the cosmonauts, who were supposed to be Soviet air force pilots, followed standard communication protocols, such as identifying themselves when speaking or using correct technical terminology. Likewise all the recordings contain disjointed sentences and grammatical errors (e.g. the meaningless "..аша передача будет теперь", Nov 1963)←(″аша передача будет теперь″ Translation: "...[o]ur transmission will now...") contradicting the known fact that the Soviet space program only used highly trained, well-educated Russian native speakers from aeronautical backgrounds. Though some of the transcripts record cosmonauts saying they are leaving Earth's orbit (i.e. heading into interplanetary or "deep" space), the manned Vostok 3KAs could not reach escape velocity because their designs never contained secondary-burn propulsion units. This was inherent to the Vostok programme, a project to put the first Soviet citizens into low Earth orbit and return them safely. OKB-1 only required spacecraft with velocities that could reach Earth orbit (28,160 kilometres per hour (17,500 mph)) far less than the speed needed to break orbit (40,320 kilometres per hour (25,050 mph)). Propulsion units powerful enough to leave earth's orbit did not begin to appear until the test firing of the RD-270 engine in 1969; and it was not until the N1 moon rocket (with the NK-33 engines) in 1974 that the Soviets built a spacecraft able to reach open space. It is impossible to "accidentally" veer off into deep space without firing a rocket engine powerful enough to accelerate to escape velocity. Brazilian astronomer Ronaldo Rogério de Freitas Mourão stated that "These stories fell into disrepute after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Many secrets of the Russian program came to light and nothing on that subject [was addressed]". "The Russian program had several failures that they did not hide. " Mourão also reported that attempts to intercept radio signals were not made in Europe alone. "There was a lot of listening, as there was an American interest in destabilizing the Soviet Union and that kind of information would not go unnoticed," said the astronomer. "If there was anyone before Gagarin, we would know."
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In 1964 they won the Italian TV quiz show Fiera dei Sogni ('The Fair of Dreams') that enabled them to visit NASA as their prize.
In 2007 the brothers were the subject of a documentary called I pirati dello spazio ('Pirates of Space'). Fortean Times, a science-sceptical magazine, published an article on the brothers and their recordings of lost cosmonauts in March 2008. A sympathetic dramatisation of the brothers' story, called "Listen Up" by Glen Neath, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in May 2009. In 2011, the brothers' story was featured on the Science Channel TV show, Dark Matters: Twisted But True. The Dark Matters Season 01 Episode 05 also presented the story in an extremely sympathetic light, only briefly mentioning any skepticism that exists.
- "Lost in Space". Fortean Times. July 2008. Archived from the original on 2 December 2017. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- "Lost Cosmonaut Rumors". aerospaceweb.org. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- Meniconi, Tadeu (April 12, 2011). "Interceptações de rádio contam histórias de 'cosmonautas perdidos'" [Radio interceptions tell stories of 'lost cosmonauts'] (in Portuguese). Sao Paulo: Globo. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
- Notes on the space tracking activities
- Andrews & Asif A. Siddiqi, James T. (2011). Into the Cosmos: Space Exploration and Soviet Culture. University of Pittsburgh. ISBN 9780822977469.
- Asif. A. Siddiqi (2000). Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974. NASA. SP-2000-4408. Part 1 (page 1-500), Part 2 (page 501-1011)
- Rex Hall, David Shayler (May 18, 2001). The rocket men: Vostok & Voskhod, the first Soviet manned spaceflights. Springer. p. 350. ISBN 1-85233-391-X.
- Dossier Sputnik. ...Questo il mondo non lo saprà... di Judica Cordiglia Achille - Judica Cordiglia G. Battista, 2006 ISBN 88-902027-8-5 ISBN 9788890202780