Yuri Gagarin’s flight became a pioneer by completing an Earth orbit. The truth made him a hero in the Soviet Union and a world figure. After putting the world’s first satellite into orbit with the successful launch of Sputnik in October 1957, the Soviet space program scrambled to secure dominance over the United States by placing a man in space.
Written by Vladimir Isachenkov
MOSCOW (AP) – Smashed into the pilot’s seat by the powerful G-Force, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin He saw flames outside his spaceship and prepared for death. His voice broke through the tense silence at the control center: “I’m on fire. Goodbye, comrades.”
Little did Gagarin know that what he was observing from the aperture was a plasma cloud enveloping it Vostok 1 While returning to Earth’s atmosphere, he is still on his way back safely.
It was his calm calm under pressure that helped him become The first human to reach space 60 years ago.
Jagarin’s firm restraint was a major factor behind the success of his groundbreaking 108-minute flight. The April 12, 1961 mission suffered technical malfunctions and emergencies, from a capsule hatch that was not properly closed to parachute problems at the last moment before landing.
From the moment 20 Soviet Air Force pilots were selected for the first manned space flight, Gagarin’s calm personality, ability to learn quickly, and his big smile made him a favorite.
Two days before take-off, Gagarin, 27, wrote a farewell letter to his wife, Valentina, expressing his pride in choosing to fly Vostok 1, but also trying to console her in the event of her death.
“I have complete confidence in the team, they should not let me down. But if something happens, Valiusha, I ask you not to be defeated by grief,” he wrote using a diminutive word to his wife.
Authorities kept the letter, eventually delivering it to Gagarin’s widow seven years later, after he was killed in a plane crash. She never remarried.
Gagarin’s pioneering flight, in which he completed an orbit around the Earth, made him a hero of the Soviet Union and a world figure. After putting the world’s first satellite into orbit with the successful launch of Sputnik in October 1957, the Soviet space program scrambled to secure dominance over the United States by placing a man in space.
“The target was set, and people slept in their offices and workshops, just like in wartime,” recalls Fyodor Yerchichin, the Russian astronaut who was eventually making five trips into space.
In its desire to win over the Americans, the Soviet space and missile program suffered a series of failures in 1960, including the disastrous launch pad explosion in October that killed 126 people. Among the victims was the commander of the Mitrofan Nedlin missile force.
Like Gagarin, the Soviet officers were prepared for the worst. No safety system has been installed to rescue the astronaut in the event of another rocket exploding, either at take-off or at a later time.
Authorities wrote three copies of a statement about Gagarin’s trip to the official TASS news agency: one announcing a successful trip, another reporting problems, and a third describing a mission that ended in disaster.
In addition to possible engine malfunctions and other technical problems, scientists doubted a person’s ability to withstand the conditions of spaceflight. Many feared that the pilot might go crazy in orbit.
Soviet engineers prepared for this emergency by developing a fully automatic control system. As an added precaution, the pilot will receive a pincode sealed envelope to activate manual controls. The theory was that the person who could enter the symbol must be reasonable enough to operate the ship.
However, everyone in the space program was so fond of Jagarin that a prominent flight instructor and engineer acted alone and shared a secret code before the flight to save him from the hassle of handling the circumstance in an emergency.
The problems started from the beginning. When Gagarin got into Vostok 1, a light confirming that the hatch was closed did not turn on. Working at a frantic pace, an engineer and colleague removed 32 bolts, found and repaired a defective contact, and set the bolts just in time for the scheduled take-off time.
Sitting in the capsule, Gagarin whistling song. “Poyekhali!” (“Here we go!”), He shouted as the missile launched.
In another precaution, the orbit was designed so that the spacecraft would land on its own after a week if it was left by an engine failure. Instead, the failure caused it to reach a higher orbit, which would have resulted in the death of Gagarin if the engine had failed at that point.
Although the engine was running as planned to return, the fuel leak caused an unexpected return lane and a higher speed, causing the vehicle to spin uncontrollably for a long 10 minutes.
Gagarin later said that he nearly lost consciousness when he suffered a force of gravity that was more than 10 times greater than gravity. “There was a moment, which lasted two or three seconds, when the machines started fading before my eyes,” he said.
When he saw a cloud of plasma around his ship on return, he thought the capsule was on fire.
A soft landing system had not yet been designed, so Gagarin walked out of the unit with his spacesuit and deployed a parachute. When he got off, he had to wrestle with a valve to start breathing outside air. A spare parachute was opened in addition to the main parachute, which made it difficult for him to control the landing, although he managed to safely land in a field near the Volga River in the Saratov region.
Gagarin was transported to Moscow to receive the heroes, was welcomed by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, and was greeted by enthusiastic crowds who celebrated his trip as a victory equivalent to victory in World War II. Until his death at the age of 34, he enjoyed international fame and visited dozens of countries to celebrate his historic mission.
“The huge propaganda impact of the launch of Sputnik, especially Gagarin, was very significant,” said Moscow-based aviation and space expert Vadim Lukashevich. “Suddenly we were defeated by the United States, even though our country had not yet recovered from the massive damage and losses” of World War II.
Gagarin died on a test flight on March 27, 1968. Just 16 months later, the United States won the space race against the Soviet Union by taking astronauts to the moon.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended an era of rivalry. Russia’s efforts to develop new missiles and spacecraft faced successive delays, and the country continued to rely on Soviet technology. In that stalemate, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, which has come under fire, has focused on an expensive plan to build a new headquarters on the site of a previously dismantled missile factory.