From obscurity to a Renowned Celebrity
Gagarin is praised as the first man to land in space on Wednesdaymorning in April 12 1961. Gagarin after the great trip to the space,he became an international celebrity and was awarded numerous titlesand medals. Until the morning of April 12 1961, Yuri was a less knownpersonality than any of the possibly 1, 200 or over Gagarin’sresiding in Moscow. Yuri was a rather quiet, intelligent but had afacial physique that left the impression of a demeanor.
Nonetheless, the morning of April 12, 1961 saw Yuri Gagarin who wasclocking 27 years cramped in the cockpit of the Vostok space capsulethat was being launched from its pad at Baikonur, in Kazakhstan.Gagarin flight was an epochal representation of the technological andscientific achievement of the Russians at a time when the West viewedSocialist is intellectual retards. Nonetheless, the West and theSoviet Union realized that Gagarin was just about to open anotherchapter of history as a daring hero who dared explore the unknownspace in the universe (New York Times 14).
The space ship included a life support machine, recording equipments,radio and televisions for relaying information on the pilot’scondition. In addition, all aspect of the flight was automated andGagarin’s cockpit control knobs were locked and there was no wayGagarin could control the craft. However, there was a combination oflock and unlock information stored in a sealed envelope in case itwas necessary to take control of the spaceship during emergency. Thiscould have been quite scaring for a common person given that thisspace ship was making its first maiden airspace trip with no pastexperience. However, the combination of automated system and possibleoperating locks was quite reassuring. Based on past records ofprevious rocket failures one was bound to have serious misgiving. Forinstance, previously there had been serious fatal ballistic explosionat the same site that killed nearly 165 people that ended the livesof a number of space program experts. It was thus frightening thatunlike in the previous space flights that included the use of dogs,this time a real human being was used (New York Times 14).
Gagarin’s date with space started at dawn that Wednesday morning ofApril 1961. The 27 year old Air Force major was aroused at dawn froman undisclosed location presumably in the central region of SovietUnion- to make preparation for the rare, fastest and the longest rideinto the space (New York Times 14).
Gagarin was strapped tightly on his laced gravity suit and walkedtowards the launching pad. A casual 27 year old male of Gagarinstature would have had million thoughts about the unusual trip in theunknown space. Perhaps Gagarin had mastered enough courage followinghis stints as Air Force major and matters of sky trips did not botherhim. At the launching pad a huge, multistage space craft pointedtowards the sky and this was going to be Gagarin’s spaceship forthe next few hours he would be far away from earth. Many praiseGagarin for his courageous yet selfless determination to contributetowards space exploration even when no one had ever travelled intothe space before. As Gagarin strapped himself tightly in the rocketcapsule, dozens of engineers and scientists wished him well. Perhapsin their minds they were filled with doubts if ever Gagarin wouldmake it to the space leave alone coming back. Several decades havepassed since 1961 but one cannot hesitate to wonder how the youngman, was so full of himself and optimism. The thought of travellingto space where little is unknown would instill endless fear to anyperson in the modern age but that was a non-issue to Gagarin (NewYork Times 14).
As Gagarin waited in the cockpit capsule of the Vostok 1 space craft,an elevator whisked him into the rocket entrance of the silver spacecraft. For few minutes, some adjustments were carried out on hisstrapping and the equipments around him. At 7.10 a.m (04:10UT) theradio communication was turned on once Gagarin was whisked into thespacecraft and his pictures appeared on television screens in thelaunch control room. The launch did not start until two hours later.While waiting for the launch, Gagarin chatted with his fellow spacemission colleagues at the launching pad (New York Times 14).
Afterwards, Gagarin was sealed in as seconds’ ticked away waitingthe propelling thunderous roar. Perhaps, Gagarin was feeling theticking of time in his system but assured of the safety equipmentsaround him, Gagarin was perhaps savoring every bit of the moment. Few minutes later, a huge fire blast and roaring thunder lent the airvibrating the ground like an enormous earth tremor. Gagarin sankdeeper in his padded bed as the space craft plunged upwards with afrightening speed. If the frightening roar ever scared the gatheredengineers and scientists, perhaps Gagarin exuded calm as this was hisnature. In fact, half hour earlier before the launch Gagarin pulseregistered 64 beats per minute. Of course, this was unusual giventhat Gagarin had witnessed nearly 12 failed space mission launchesthat either failed on the orbit due to malfunction or never reachedthe Orbit. The time was 9.07 A.M in Moscow time and 1.07 A.M NewYork time on Wednesday.
Gagarin heart beat faster as the space ship cruised with lighteningspeed towards the space. Gagarin breathing changed and becameshallower as his space ship approached the orbit. It was fifteenminutes later after the takeoff that Gagarin recorded that he wasover South America, “Flight is proceeding normally, and I feelwell.” This feedback may have elicited widespread sighs of relieffor this first space trip. Perhaps the scientist and engineers whohad made preparations for the unusual flight were delighted that atleast the spacecraft was cruising normally without technical hitches.Anyone with experience with manmade machines can agree that allmachines are not absolutely perfect and are prone failure. A moreappalling aspect is that machines ‘fail’ to function even when inknown environment (earth). To this end, it was such a sigh of reliefto get feedback from Gagarin that he was safe and proceeding welldespite the unknown conditions in the space (New York Times 14).
Gagarin space ship cruised into the Orbit covering 1873/4 miles fromplanet earth to the farthest point approximately 1091/2 miles. Anobvious fact is that, anyone at that far away from earth would havehad scaring thoughts. However, Gagarin was on a space mission andnever had any scaring thoughts about his life or family. In part,Gagarin had tasks to do while on the space such as reading, dialingnumbers and space recordings to make with his barrage of equipments.One important report that Gagarin made over his space craft radiowas, “I can see the Earth, it is visible and I can hear youperfectly.”…..”The flight is progressing well and I can evensee things in the space especially the cumulus clouds.” “Amfeeling well, I am in good spirits, am continuing well with theflight and everything is fine especially the machine.” For doubtingThomas these feedback were enough evidence that indeed the spacecould be explored despite insignificant information about the space.After fifty three minutes, Gagarin was progressing around the globeand was over African space at the time of reporting. While on Africanspace, Gagarin reported, “I am withstanding the state ofweightlessness well” (New York Times 14). Gagarin was completinghis first global Orbit.
Ten minutes later, Gagarin had completed the space orbit and wasready to descend into Earth’s atmosphere. However, one frighteningchallenge stood ahead which only Gagarin would manage or perish init. Bearing in mind that this was the first space mission, neitherthe scientist nor engineers had perfected any means of preventing abody from disintegrating into nothingness due to atmosphericfriction. Gagarin would have had the scariest moments in his lifethat could not even match the propelling blast during the initialstage of rocket launch. The challenge was that Gagarin was travellingat 18, 000 miles meaning that if the spaceship failed to slow itwould disintegrate into piece due to friction with air. Gagarin hadmanaged aircrafts before and though this was out of his experience,he did not have any fear and applied the breaking mechanism. Slowlythe spaceship’s speed lowered and Gagarin felt increased pressureas the rocket slowed towards its fall (New York Times 14).
One hour and forty-eight minutes later, Gagarin space ship landedwith a bump on Earth marking this historical first man to completespace orbit. Nothing can explain the joy, disbelief and sigh ofrelief that shown on the faces of excited comrades who gatheredaround Gagarin. Gagarin was blasted with endless questions andseveral encouraging pats on his back. The multitude wanted to knowwhat the space looks like, any unusual phenomena or any otherimaginary aspect on the space. Calmly, Major Gagarin assured them,‘the sky is extremely ‘dark’ but the Earth is ‘bluish’ buteverything is very clear.’
Gagarin Flight Launch summary
06:07 UT Launch occurred at Baikonour Cosmodrome Site No.1.Korolev the space mission captain radioed, “Preliminarystage…intermediate…main …lifts off! We wish you goodflight…everything is right.” Gagarin responded “Let’s go!”
06: 09 UT Four strap-on boosters used for the rocketpropulsion dropped from the spaceship
06:10 UT Payload covering the Vostok 1 was released,uncovering Gagarin’s feet to allow for optical orientation.
06:12 UT the Rocket core stage used in propulsion fell awayfrom the capsule.
06:13 UT Gagarin reported that, “the flight is progressingwell I can see the earth very well. Everything is fine.”
06:14 UT Vostok 1 passed over central Russia and Gagarinreported, “Everything is working well, all systems are fine. Let’skeep going!”
06:15 UT The Rocket reached final stage three minutes laterand Gagarin reported, “I can’t hear you well. I am fine…I amcontinuing with flight.” Vostok 1 moved out of radio range ofBaikonur ground station.
06:17 UT The Rocket reached its final stage and Vostok 1reached the Orbit and the Rocket separated from the Capsule.
06:18 UT Gagarin reported, “The craft is functioning well. Ican see the Earth. Everything is proceeding well as planned.”
06:21 UT Gagarin reported that he was fine and the capsule wascruising over the North Pacific Ocean.
06:25 UT Vostok 1 began the diagonal crossing of the PacificOcean in the Southern tip of South America.
06:31 UT Gagarin reported that the flight was good andrequested data from Khabarovsk radio horizon.
06:37 UT Vostok 1 progressed with its journey as the sun setover the North Pacific and Gagarin crossed into night on thenorthwest of Hawaii Islands.
06:48 UT Vostok crossed over equator at 170 degrees and beganto cross to the South Pacific.
06: 57 UT Gagarin reported that he was continuing with flightover the pacific in America.
07:10 UT Gagarin crossed over the South Atlantic intodaylight. At this juncture retrofire was just 15 minutes away.
07:25 UT the automatic system brought the spacecraft to therequired attitude for orientation and retro firing. This is presumedto be over the west coast of Africa at Angola. Nearly 8,000kilometers to the landing point.
07:35 UT after retrofire the spacecraft underwentuncontrollable gyrations in apparent effort to disengage theequipment module from the service module.
07:55 UT Vostok 1 was 7 km from the ground and the spacecraftwas released and Gagarin ejected. At 2.5 km, Gagarin parachuted tothe ground after being disengaged from the Vostok spacecraft.
Although Gagarin space mission is heralded as risk free, Gagarin wasto affirm later that as the space ship descended into the atmosphere,the flight could have been disastrous. Gagarin told some officialsduring an interview that the rocket spanned dangerously on its axisseveral times before stabilizing. Gagarin said, ‘As soon as thebraking system in the rocket shut off, the craft began to spin athigh velocity on its axis failing to separate the equipment from thecosmonaut’s capsule.” It was only after ten minutes that thecraft stabilized and Gagarin was ejected from the capsule and freetowards earth in his strapped parachute while the capsule flew toearth on its own parachute. This could have been one of the mostdramatic events that Gagarin would have lived to tell. One canimagine Gagarin feelings when the craft started to spinuncontrollably ‘in all 3 axes.’
The craft was oscillating burning, crackling and possibly Gagarincould smell the craft coat as it burned. Considering that Gagarin wasfirmly strapped, control buttons locked and the spinning could nothave made it easy to communicate, one can only say that this was ascaring moment. To say the least, despite Gagarin’s courage, hecould have been greatly terrified although he never sounded any alarmas he later confirmed, ‘I was just waiting ejection….at anattitude of more than 7000m….I was just thinking….it is me?”Indeed, this was a rather complicated scenario which would have increased confusion had the ‘ground’ men decided to‘intervene’ and perhaps lead to disastrous disintegration of therocket. Bearing in mind that there was little technological and spaceinformation at that time, perhaps the ‘ground’ men left the‘forces’ of nature control the spacecraft (New York Times 14).
Nonetheless, this information was only made 30 years later by theSoviet Union to clinch the record of the first man in space orbit.After the flight, the formerly unknown pilot was transformedovernight into an international hero and rose to higher ranks in theSoviet Socialite party. Gagarin’s death in 1968 is believed to havepolitical orientation. Nonetheless, Gagarin holds an important markin the history of space exploration.
New York Times. (1923-current file). “Astronaut’s Day Started atDawn, by late Morning Gagarin Had Orbited the Earth and Made a SafeReturn. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. April 13, 1961, pg. 14.