Air & Space: How did Gagarin die?
Mosolov: Gagarin loved to fly jet fighters. Reluctantly the Soviet government granted his request to return to flying duty after he had served as a cosmonaut. He was flying a two-place MiG-15 fighter with his military commander, Colonel Vladimir Seregin. At low altitude the airplane rolled inverted and impacted the ground in a 70 degree dive. The cause of the accident could not be determined.
Air & Space: Colonel Mosolov, please describe Gagarin’s funeral.
Mosolov: Gagarin was a great Soviet hero. He was buried in the wall of Moscow’s Red Square in the Kremlin, near where Vladimir Lenin’s body lies. Colonel Seregin was buried there at the same time. To be buried near the great revolutionary leader Lenin at that time was an unspeakably high honor.
Hundreds of thousands of Russians crowded Red Square for Gagarin’s funeral. It may have been millions, I couldn’t tell for sure. I was completely awed by the size of the crowd I saw there. It was the event of a lifetime.
Air & Space: Colonel Mosolov, please sum up your feelings for Gagarin.
Mosolov: I loved and admired Yuri Gagarin. He was a rare breed. I think of him as a man gifted from God. It is a great tragedy that he died so young. I miss him to this day, to this minute.