Do Space Angels Exist?

On 12th July 1984, three Russian cosmonauts were alone on the longest stay on a space station at that time They were performing medical experiments in the capsule, when all at once a brilliant orange glow engulfed them

The cosmonauts rushed to the window: outside they saw a ghostly face smiling back at them Its body was huge and its wings stretched out as wide as a Boeing 747 All three cosmonauts signed an account saying there were seven of these haloed beings Could it be that these 100-meter tall figures were angels? The Salyut 7 Space Station was launched into low-Earth orbit in April 1982 It was the final iteration of the Salyut programme before the updated Mir spacecraft began its 15-year residency in 1986

The three Russian cosmonauts began their record 237 days in orbit on the 8th February They were pilot Leonid Kizim, engineer Vladimir Solovyov and medical doctor Oleg Atkov The ‘angels’ appeared to them on the 155th day of their stay and supposedly followed the space station for 10 minutes before disappearing However, this was not the last sighting Five days later the crew were visited by the Soyuz T-12 rocket, which contained three new cosmonauts on a short-term visit to the station

The new additions, Vladimir Dzhanibekov, Svetlana Savitskaya and Igor Volk, settled in and began their tasks For Savitskaya, this included the first ever female spacewalk Everything was going as normal until the 24th of July, when – 12 days after the initial sighting – the craft was bathed in an orange glow once again All six cosmonauts saw gigantic humanoid figures There were seven of them, just like the last time

On closer examination, the cosmonauts noted that their round, cherubic faces were all identical Within minutes they had disappeared The T-12 crew returned home on 29th July The original three returned to Earth on 2nd October 1984 They relayed their reports to the Soviet government, who immediately subjected them to psychological and medical testing

No abnormalities were found The incident was supposedly classified to protect the credibility of the Soviet Space Program But in 1985 a communist defector leaked it to the Western press The defector said that Russia “would prefer to write off the sightings as hallucination, but the evidence seems to indicate that what they saw was more supernatural than natural” Shortly after Salyut 7 was vacated, it mysteriously experienced a huge power surge in the electrical system that shut down the primary radio transmitters

Soviet Mission control, thinking the surge had accidentally tripped the transmitters, turned them back on remotely Immediately electrical shorts spread through the entire station, this time knocking out radio receivers as well as transmitters Contact with Salyut 7 was lost and it floated silently through space After several rescue attempts, the station ended its life by burning up over South America in 1991 Despite the psychological tests coming out negative, it is still tempting to assume that the experience was nothing more than a group hallucination

However, not much is known about how mass hallucinations work, or if they can even happen Alternatively, it could be related to the Spatial Disorientation that jet pilots feel due to the abnormal acceleratory environment of their flight This can result in visual illusions Neither of these explanations is that satisfactory But did it even happen at all? The very first report of this incident was published on October 22nd, 1985

The headline said: “HUGE ANGELS SEEN IN SPACE!” The publication was the notorious ‘Weekly World News’ The Weekly World News focussed on the supernatural and the bizarre It was largely satirical and many articles were obviously written for comedic effect Previous headlines include the fictional stories “Humans turning back into Apes” and “Mermaid cemetery discovered”

When the story has been re-reported, writers refer to a contemporary article in the Washington Post to support it But the only article in The Washington Post’s archives from 1984 about Salyut 7 is one about cosmonauts’ safe return to Earth The article talks about their experiences on board – with no mention of the angel incident Confusingly, a 1997 interview with Vladimir Solovyov, one of the original three cosmonauts, mentioned the missing Washington Post article When asked about the ‘seven angels’, Solovyov replied, ""I could not believe they put that in such a serious paper

I've never seen any aliens but I am sure we are not alone in the universe"" It seems likely that by 1997 the Weekly World News story had already become urban myth Part of the myth includes it being reported in The Washington Post – something that was much more difficult to verify in the 20th century Vladimir Solovyov probably never read the Washington Post article – indeed no one had, because it never existed Seen in this context, it seems that the entire story is a fabrication

It was probably intended as a light and humorous read that has, over the course of 30 years, become legend It has entered the very genre that the article was lampooning The story of the Russian Space Angels is a lesson that, when confronted with stories that sound incredible, we should not spread them without knowing where they came from Otherwise, truly phenomenal events may be obscured, and disregarded as yet more fiction

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