A FOOTNOTE FROM HAVANA
In September of 1980 a Cuban "guest cosmonaut", Arnaldo Tamayo-Mendez, was launched aboard the "Soyuz 38" capsule. After his successful flight, he received a hero’s welcome back in Havana.
Fidel Castro gave a moving speech, in which he described his visit to the Cosmonaut Training Center in Zvezdny Gorodok (Star City). He had been greatly impressed by the faithful reproduction of Yuri Gagarin’s office, where, on the eve of their space missions, cosmonauts go to meditate. In a continuing tradition, they leave on Gagarin's desk a letter in which they pledge to honor and uphold the great tradition of valor of the soviet cosmonauts who have preceded them. The office is exactly how it was at the time of Gagarin’s death on March 27, 1968: his notes are still on the desk, his appointment book lies open on the table, his uniform hangs from the clothes-stand, all the clocks are stopped at the exact hour of his accident.
Castro went on to describe another room, that he called the "room of martyrs". Access to this room is strictly controlled. On the walls of the room are the photographs of all the cosmonauts who have given their lives in the course of the soviet space program. Castro was deeply moved by the display of heroism presented in this very special shrine; he added: "Many are the heroes who sacrificed their lives at the beginning of the space age!"