"gradually I've come to realise that my house is haunted by the ghost of a dead astronaut"

Saturday, 30 January 2010

40. An Illustrated History of Dead Astronauts

 
"Is it possible that the mysterious astronaut outside of the spacecraft Prelude is the same astronaut who haunts Mordan House? Some astronaut who died in space and whose ghost has somehow descended to the ground? Is this the link with fact that I'm looking for?"

Eighteen astronauts, either American or from the old Soviet Union, have died in-flight during space missions. Other astronauts have died while training for space flights or on the launchpad in their space-suits, and many personnel have died on the ground as a result of accidents – but only eighteen were airborne in spacecrafts at the time that they died.

But how many of them died in space?

This question is extremely relevant to me, it seems. If I'm being haunted by a dead astronaut, and if Philip's story about the spacecraft Prelude is somehow true, then there appears to be a link between what's happening to me in Mordan House and what's happened before in space. I'm looking for some link that exists in fact, yet I'm not sure what fact I'm looking for. Moreover, I'm not entirely sure what a fact is in this story! In Philip's version of the story of the spacecraft Prelude, the astronauts heard a scratching sound on the outside of their spacecraft, a sound made by the mysterious astronaut seen outside floating in space, the astronaut who shouldn't have been there; I heard the sound of scratching in the basement of this house. Fact? Possibly. But it's hard to trust anything that my imagination throws up these days, yet I find it hard to doubt that this is an important connection. Is it possible that the mysterious astronaut outside of the spacecraft Prelude is the same astronaut who haunts Mordan House? Some astronaut who died in space and whose ghost has somehow descended to the ground? Is this the link with fact that I'm looking for?

Yet what of the words spoken outside my door regarding the helmets that were made at the request of some woman who once lived here in Mordan House? The helmets that eat people. And how is it possible that a helmet can eat a person? At the same time, one aspect of this line of questioning cannot be avoided: how can I be sure that there was actually a voice outside of my door, telling me these things? I'm searching for facts, it seems, in a world fundamentally corrupted by my own delusions, and ultimately subverting any notion of fact.

Online, I've been looking at the faces of dead astronauts. I've been looking at their proud, expectant smiles. Smiles with no hint of fear, only of bravery and adventure and possibility. The chances of death were probably exceptionally high for them all, yet it was nowhere to be seen in their faces. I myself can still remember the sense of loss at the deaths of the astronauts on board both Challenger and Columbia.

The seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger died in the midst of their expectancy, with the spacecraft having only just taken off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

"The seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger died in the midst of their expectancy"

By contrast, the seven astronauts of the shuttle Columbia died in the midst of their pride. They had been in space for sixteen days, carrying out a number of scientific experiments. On re-entering the Earth's orbit, one of the wings overheated and became detached due to a displaced tile and the spacecraft lost control.

Yes, you might well haunt land and sky if this was your fate – your frustration, your need to return to loved ones, the horror of your demise, all creating a conflict of emotions that might well leave your impression in the air. An impression intent on dropping down to the land.

"By contrast, the seven astronauts of the shuttle Columbia died in the midst of their pride"

Perhaps these feelings could be said to be true of all who have died as a result of space missions. Perhaps they were true of Vladimir Komarov who died aboard the Soyuz 1. Again, his was a fatality on returning to Earth, but this time crashing to the ground due to a number of mechanical problems. It's possible that the mixture of emotions experienced by this particular astronaut (or cosmonaut, if you wish to use the term of the Soviet Union which was responsible for putting him in space) were different. Rumours circulated after Vladimir's death that his last radio message damned those who had designed and engineered such a shoddy craft. What could he have cried out? "One day it will be your turn!" Who knows.

"Rumours circulated after Vladimir's death that his last radio message damned those who had designed and engineered such a shoddy craft"

But none of these astronauts died in space. So, exactly how many astronauts have actually died in space? Only three, it would appear. Those on board Soyuz 11 in 1971.

The sense of expectancy must have been with those on the ground who ventured to recover the capsule containing the returning Soviet heroes of Soyuz 11 after their successful space mission. The astronauts were the first to dock with a space station, Salyut 1, they had set a new space endurance record, and were returning as the new heroes of the Cold War, as the Soviets warred with the US to dominate the race to the stars. The ground crew had little idea that anything had gone wrong with the return flight, although radio contact had been lost before re-entry, and they opened the capsule only to find all three dead inside.  

It had all gone wrong for Vladislav Volkov, Georgi Dobrovolski and Viktor Patsayev as soon as they started the procedures to return to Earth. Cabin pressure was accidentally released and the three astronauts asphyxiated within 40 seconds.


"It had all gone wrong for Vladislav Volkov, Georgi Dobrovolski and Viktor Patsayev as soon as they started the procedures to return to Earth. Cabin pressure was accidentally released and the three astronauts asphyxiated within 40 seconds"

After I learned this online the other day, this fact stayed with me. All three asphyxiated. And whenever I thought about it, I would hear that gurgling sound in my head again. The sound I'd heard from Kidman. Yet surely this gurgling sound is imaginary! It's just something dreamed up by me! It has no foundation in Philip's story. No foundation in fact.

I looked again and again at their three faces and found it impossible to think that any one of them could be haunting me. For a start, their capsule landed in Kazakhstan – not Scotland! The idea of any connection is preposterous!

But what other options do I have? None.

Or so I thought.

It was then, yesterday, that I learned about the lost cosmonauts.

There have been, I’ve discovered, countless rumours over the years of other Soviet space travellers who underwent secret missions into space, and some have been rumoured to have died – their deaths hushed-up as America and the Soviet Union competed for the kudos of gaining particular milestones in space exploration.

Could that be the clue I’m looking for to discover my astronaut’s identity? Am I looking for information on the nineteenth astronaut? Is it the nineteenth who is haunting me? And could one of those spacecrafts have been called Prelude? Most importantly for me, which death has a connection with this old house in Scotland?

When I first had this idea and felt it searing through me, I also heard and felt an insistent and slow scratching down the back of my head. Quickly I realised that it was my own hand on the back of my head and realised also that I had been reading and daydreaming for hours.

Yet I wonder also for how much longer might that scratching be my own fingers? Can I solve this mystery and do something to resolve it before the astronaut's scratching resounds as a prelude to plucking me from this planet? Can I solve it before the woman responsible for creating the helmets that eat people returns to Mordan House?

The questions are enormous, conflicting, and they seem insurmountable. And I seem so small and pointless in the face of it all. Just another dim, weak star, easily looked over and ignored in a night-sky tremendous with extraordinary features, mysteries and mysterious apparitions.

7 comments:

onceuponasunflower said...

I'm amazed at the depth of your research on the topic of dead astronauts. How can a story about astronauts, ghosts, and Nicole Kidman make any sense, let alone be engaging to a reader? I don't know. But you've done it. Congrats!!

Secretia said...

I have always wondered how it must feel to be in another world looking back at the earth..

Eva said...

I think this was my favorite post yet. Not because of the research, which was wonderful, but because of your exploration of death. I think each particular type would leave a certain impression. "Impression" that was your word, and I loved it. This was so intriguing I can't say it right. I wish I could, because this post really sunk into me, but I can't.

Wonderful Stephanie! You are brilliant.

Jen said...

Once again I am amazed at how brilliant you are! I love to read your posts, always enjoy them!!!

Fantastic! *claps*

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I'm intrigued...to say the least. Serious research, for starters. And CAREEeeeepy. I got the shivers reading this, and I still don't know what all the connections are. So you've done something quite brilliantly, I should say. Well done. You've hooked me ;) Although, your profile alone was enough to snag me, I think. You're very followable. Why yes, you are. No pity-follows for you. You are strictly a super-must-follow.

logankstewart said...

I remember as a kid watching a documentary on the Apollo program, and from then on I was interested in space. (Or maybe it's my love for Star Wars?)

That said, I found this part of your story fascinating. The research and history was great, and the wiki links were perfect.

As always, great job.

Nevine said...

Steph, I'm sure you don't know this but when I was a little girl, and up until I was 12 or so, I wanted to be an astronaut. I'm not sure what happened, exactly, to make me change my mind, but something crept inside me and changed my head around. But my fascination with space remains... as does my fascination with the occult... which you have so deftly combined, along with not a small bit of history, and you've come up with quite a winner. This leg of your story is a pause, a reflection, an examination. The small suspenseful moments are replaced by a big tent of wondering and questioning and wanting to know... I love it!

Nevine