"I assure you that the whole story is true...," says Tsarinsky, who cites his media mentor, filmmaker Eliot Haimoff, as the source of the story. "Haimoff went to Russia to interview Ilyushin. In 1999, Ilyushin was living in a modest apartment in Moscow with his wife of over 45 years. He was still active as a test pilot, aircraft designer and spokesperson for a major military aircraft manufacturer."
Haimoff's telling of the alleged Soviet coverup is seen in the documentary, "The Cosmonaut Cover-Up". During his visit to Moscow, Haimoff claimed that the aging aviator refused to talk with him on camera, but off-camera, Ilyushin told his story as a cosmonaut.
So, all we really have is Haimoff's word regarding his 1999 meeting with Ilyushin.
While the British newspaper account of an alleged "first flight" exists, this writer doesn't believe it is accurate; it wasn't the first time a newspaper got the facts wrong. (The RMS Titanic was reported saved on the front pages of several daily newspapers in 1912). An alleged cosmonaut cover-up would have been impossible to maintain after the fall of the USSR.
What's in the Sky: The constellation Cassiopeia is easy to view in the northeast this week. It rises as a giant "W" in the night sky after 8 p.m. Several Messier deep space objects within Cassiopeia, star-clusters, are seventh apparent magnitude which means they are easily seen through binoculars (see chart).
Lou Varricchio, M.Sc., is a former NASA science writer. He is involved with the NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador program in Vermont. He was recently honored with the Maj. Gen. Chuck Yeager Award for Aerospace Education presented by the U.S. Civil Air Patrol.