Google out-scooped me on this one. Google has limitless resources; Google has eyes everywhere and trains them on arcane holidays. Had I been Google, I too might have awoken this morning with the name "Yuri Gagarin" on my mind.
The story of Cosmonauts' Day is a good one, though, and bears repeating.
April 12th marks the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic launch into space. On this day in 1961, Gagarin simultaneously became the first man in space and the first to orbit the Earth. He became a global icon and Russian folk hero overnight. His foray lasted only 68 minutes but has remained a thorn in NASA's side ever since.
April 12th, 2007 will be remembered for another turn in the Gargarin saga: today the Kremlin vetoed a move to reopen investigations into the mysterious death of Yuri Gagarian.
In 1968, Gargarin, along his flight instructor, Vladimir Serugin, died in a fatal crash during a routine training mission. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, investigators ascertained "the most probable cause" was a sudden, in-flight maneuver that sent their plane into a nosedive. The vagueness of these findings created an information vacuum, giving rise to a heady stream of conspiracy theories.
Some theories had the two men abducted by aliens; others imagined Gagarin survied the crash, underwent plastic surgery and disappeared.
One of the more insidious fingered Russia's leader at the time, Leonid Brezhnev, as orchestrating the "accident" because he had become jealous of Gagarin's fame and embarassed by his drunken philandering.
Now that's martyrdom.
Igor Kuznetsov, an aviation engineer involved in the 1968 commission who has since lobbied for President Vladimir Putin to sanction a new investigation, believes fresh research will point to a simple, no-fault conlusion: the cockpit was not hermetically sealed, forcing the pilots to sharply reduce altitude - so much so they lost consciousness and control over the aircraft.
The Kremlin says it does not see merit in this theory and finds no grounds to revisit the case.
Perhaps new leadership at the Kremlin will one day help us to discover what really happened to Yuri Gagarin. Google may already know.
Fun Fact about Yuri Gagarin:
He was 5' 2", which came in handy when shoehorning his body into the cramped cockpits of fighter jets.