Vostok 1
Overview
 
Vostok 1 was the first spaceflight in the Vostok program and the first human spaceflight
Human spaceflight
Human spaceflight is spaceflight with humans on the spacecraft. When a spacecraft is manned, it can be piloted directly, as opposed to machine or robotic space probes and remotely-controlled satellites....

 in history. The Vostok 3KA spacecraft was launched on April 12, 1961. The flight took Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961....

, a cosmonaut
Astronaut
An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft....

 from the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, into space. The flight marked the first time that a human entered outer space
Outer space
Outer space is the void that exists between celestial bodies, including the Earth. It is not completely empty, but consists of a hard vacuum containing a low density of particles: predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium, as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, and neutrinos....

, as well as the first orbital flight of a manned vehicle. Vostok 1 was launched by the Soviet space program
Soviet space program
The Soviet space program is the rocketry and space exploration programs conducted by the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from the 1930s until its dissolution in 1991...

, and was designed by Soviet engineers guided by Sergey Korolyov
Sergey Korolyov
Sergei Pavlovich Korolev ; died 14 January 1966 in Moscow, Russia) was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer in the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s...

 under military supervision of Kerim Kerimov
Kerim Kerimov
Lieutenant-General Kerim Aliyevich Kerimov was an Azerbaijani-Soviet/Russian aerospace engineer and a renowned rocket scientist, one of the founders of the Soviet space industry, and for many years a central figure in the Soviet space program. Despite his prominent role, his identity was kept a...

 and others.

The spaceflight consisted of a single orbit of the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

.
Encyclopedia
Vostok 1 was the first spaceflight in the Vostok program and the first human spaceflight
Human spaceflight
Human spaceflight is spaceflight with humans on the spacecraft. When a spacecraft is manned, it can be piloted directly, as opposed to machine or robotic space probes and remotely-controlled satellites....

 in history. The Vostok 3KA spacecraft was launched on April 12, 1961. The flight took Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961....

, a cosmonaut
Astronaut
An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft....

 from the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, into space. The flight marked the first time that a human entered outer space
Outer space
Outer space is the void that exists between celestial bodies, including the Earth. It is not completely empty, but consists of a hard vacuum containing a low density of particles: predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium, as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, and neutrinos....

, as well as the first orbital flight of a manned vehicle. Vostok 1 was launched by the Soviet space program
Soviet space program
The Soviet space program is the rocketry and space exploration programs conducted by the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from the 1930s until its dissolution in 1991...

, and was designed by Soviet engineers guided by Sergey Korolyov
Sergey Korolyov
Sergei Pavlovich Korolev ; died 14 January 1966 in Moscow, Russia) was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer in the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s...

 under military supervision of Kerim Kerimov
Kerim Kerimov
Lieutenant-General Kerim Aliyevich Kerimov was an Azerbaijani-Soviet/Russian aerospace engineer and a renowned rocket scientist, one of the founders of the Soviet space industry, and for many years a central figure in the Soviet space program. Despite his prominent role, his identity was kept a...

 and others.

The spaceflight consisted of a single orbit of the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

. According to official records, the spaceflight took 108 minutes from launch to landing. As planned, Gagarin landed separately from his spacecraft, having ejected with a parachute 7 km (22,965.9 ft) above ground. Historian Asif Siddiqi
Asif Azam Siddiqi
Asif Azam Siddiqi is a Bangladeshi American space historian. He is an assistant professor of history at Fordham University and member of advisory board at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. He specializes in the history of science and technology and modern Russian history. He has...

 has written that Gagarin was in the spacecraft for 108 minutes after launch, and that he didn't touch ground for another 10 minutes. (The exact duration is useful to prove that Gagarin completed a full 360-degree orbit in inertial space
Inertial space
In physics, the expression inertial space refers to the background reference that is provided by the phenomenon of inertia.Inertia is opposition to change of velocity, that is: change of velocity with respect to the background, the background that all physical objects are embedded in....

. The longitude of launch to landing spanned a little more than 340 degrees, but the Earth also was rotating underneath him at about 15 degrees per hour while Gagarin was aloft.)

Due to the secrecy surrounding the Soviet space program at the time, many details of the spaceflight only came to light years later, and several details in the original press releases turned out to be false.

Background

The world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1 ) was the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth's orbit. It was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1s success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space...

, had been put into orbit by the Soviets
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 in 1957, and this could be considered the beginning of the Space Race
Space Race
The Space Race was a mid-to-late 20th century competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for supremacy in space exploration. Between 1957 and 1975, Cold War rivalry between the two nations focused on attaining firsts in space exploration, which were seen as necessary for national...

, between the Soviet Union and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Both nations wanted to develop their spaceflight technology quickly, and in particular, both wanted to be the first to launch a successful human spaceflight
Human spaceflight
Human spaceflight is spaceflight with humans on the spacecraft. When a spacecraft is manned, it can be piloted directly, as opposed to machine or robotic space probes and remotely-controlled satellites....

. The Soviet programme for doing this was the Vostok programme
Vostok programme
The Vostok programme was a Soviet human spaceflight project that succeeded in putting a person into Earth's orbit for the first time. The programme developed the Vostok spacecraft from the Zenit spy satellite project and adapted the Vostok rocket from an existing ICBM design...

. Prior to a manned spaceflight, the Soviets launched several precursor unmanned missions between May 1960 and March 1961, to test and develop the Vostok rocket and Vostok spacecraft technology. These missions had varied success, but the final two unmanned missions—Korabl-Sputnik 4 and Korabl-Sputnik 5—were outright successes, opening the door for a manned flight.

Crew

See also Selection and training of the Vostok programme


27 year-old Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961....

 was the only crew member of Vostok 1. The Vostok spacecraft were designed to carry a single cosmonaut. The primary and secondary backup cosmonauts for the mission were Gherman Titov
Gherman Titov
Gherman Stepanovich Titov was a Soviet cosmonaut who, on August 6, 1961, became the second human to orbit the Earth aboard Vostok 2, preceded by Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1...

 and Grigori Nelyubov
Grigori Nelyubov
Grigori Grigoyevich Nelyubov was a Soviet cosmonaut who was likely to have been the third or fourth person in space before his dismissal from the Soviet space program....

. The assignments were formally made on April 8, four days before the mission, but Gagarin had been a favourite among the cosmonaut candidates for at least several months.

The final decision of who would fly the mission relied heavily on the opinion of Nikolai Kamanin
Nikolai Kamanin
Nikolai Petrovich Kamanin was a Soviet aviator, awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union in 1934 for the rescue of SS Chelyuskin crew from an improvised airfield on the frozen surface of the Chukchi Sea near Kolyuchin Island.In World War II he successfully commanded air brigade, air division...

. In an April 5 diary entry, Kamanin wrote that he was still undecided between Gagarin and Titov. He wrote: "The only thing that keeps me from picking [Titov] is the need to have the stronger person for the one day flight." Kamanin was referring to the second mission, Vostok 2
Vostok 2
Vostok 2 was a Soviet space mission which carried cosmonaut Gherman Titov into orbit for a full day in order to study the effects of a more prolonged period of weightlessness on the human body...

, which would last a full day, compared to the relatively short single-orbit mission of Vostok 1. When Gagarin and Titov were informed of the decision during a meeting on April 9, Gagarin was very happy, and Titov was disappointed. On April 10, this meeting was reenacted in front of television cameras, so there would be official footage of the event. This included an acceptance speech by Gagarin. As an indication of the level of secrecy involved, one of the other cosmonaut candidates, Alexey Leonov, later recalled that he didn't know who was chosen for the mission until after the spaceflight had begun.

Medical exam

Gagarin was examined by a team of doctors prior to his flight. One doctor gave her recollection of the events in an interview with RT
Russia Today
Russia Today may refer to:* Russia Today, an English language 24-hour television news channel from Russia. It was launched in 2005 and is not related to an online news service of the similar name operated by EIN News...

 in April 2011: "Gagarin looked more pale than usual. He was unsociable and quiet, which was not like him at all. He would answer by nodding or a short 'yes' to all questions. Sometimes he would start humming some tunes. This was a different Gagarin. We geared him up, and hugged. And I said, "Yuri, everything will be fine." And he nodded back."

Preparations

Unlike later Vostok missions, there were no dedicated tracking ships available to receive signals from the spacecraft. Instead they relied on the network of ground stations, also called Command Points to communicate with the spacecraft; all of these Command Points were located within the Soviet Union.

Because of weight constraints, there was no backup retrorocket engine. The spacecraft carried 10 days of provisions to allow for survival and natural decay of the orbit in the event the retrorockets failed.

Automatic control

The entire mission would be controlled by either automatic systems, or by ground control. This was because medical staff and spacecraft engineers were unsure how a human might react to weightlessness, and therefore it was decided to lock the pilot's manual controls. In an unusual move, a code to unlock the controls was placed in an onboard envelope, for Gagarin's use in case of emergency. But prior to the flight, Kamanin told Gagarin the code anyway.

April 11, 1961

On Baikonur cosmodrome
Baikonur Cosmodrome
The Baikonur Cosmodrome , also called Tyuratam, is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, about east of the Aral Sea, north of the Syr Darya river, near Tyuratam railway station, at 90 meters above sea level...

 on the morning of April 11, 1961, the Vostok-K
Vostok-K
The Vostok-K , GRAU index 8K72K was an expendable carrier rocket used by the Soviet Union for thirteen launches between 1960 and 1964, six of which were manned. It was derived from the earlier Vostok-L, however it featured uprated engines to improve performance, and enlarge its payload capacity...

 rocket, together with the attached Vostok 3KA spacecraft, were transported several miles to the launch pad, in a horizontal position. Once they arrived at the launch pad, Sergei Korolev inspected the rocket and spacecraft for problems, and without finding any, the rocket was raised into the upright position. At 10am (Moscow Time
Moscow Time
Moscow Time is the time zone for the city of Moscow, Russia and most of western Russia, including Saint Petersburg. It is the second westernmost of the nine time zones of Russia. Moscow Time has been UTC+4 year-round since 27 March 2011....

), Gagarin and Titov were given a final review of the flight plan. They were informed that launch was scheduled to occur at 9:07am Moscow Time. This time was chosen so that when the spacecraft started to fly over Africa, which was when the retrorockets would need to fire for reentry, the solar illumination would be ideal for the orientation system's sensors.

At 6 pm, once various physiological readings had been taken, the doctors instructed the cosmonauts not to discuss the upcoming missions. That evening Gagarin and Titov relaxed by listening to music, playing pool, and chatting about their childhoods. At 9:50 pm, both men were offered sleeping pills, to ensure a good night's sleep, but they both declined. Physicians had attached sensors to the cosmonauts, to monitor their condition throughout the night, and they believed that both had slept well. Gagarin's biographers Doran and Bizony, say that neither Gagarin nor Titov slept that night. Korolev didn't sleep that night, due to anxiety caused by the imminent spaceflight.

Mission

At 5:30 am Moscow time, on the morning of April 12, 1961, both Gagarin and his backup Titov were woken. They were given breakfast, assisted into their spacesuits, and then were transported to the launch pad. Gagarin entered the Vostok 1 spacecraft, and at 7:10 am local time (04:10 UTC), the radio communication system was turned on. Once Gagarin was in the Vostok 1 spacecraft, his picture appeared on television screens in the launch control room from an onboard camera. Launch would not occur for another two hours, and during the time Gagarin chatted with the mission's main CapCom, as well as Chief Designer Sergei Korolev, Nikolai Kamanin
Nikolai Kamanin
Nikolai Petrovich Kamanin was a Soviet aviator, awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union in 1934 for the rescue of SS Chelyuskin crew from an improvised airfield on the frozen surface of the Chukchi Sea near Kolyuchin Island.In World War II he successfully commanded air brigade, air division...

, and a few others. Following a series of tests and checks, about forty minutes after Gagarin entered the spacecraft, its hatch was closed. It was soon discovered that the seal was not complete, so technicians spent nearly an hour removing all the screws and sealing the hatch again.

During this time Gagarin requested some music to be played over the radio. Sergei Korolev was very nervous in the lead up to the launch; he experienced chest pains, and took a pill to calm his heart. Gagarin, on the other hand, was described as calm; about half an hour before launch his pulse
Pulse
In medicine, one's pulse represents the tactile arterial palpation of the heartbeat by trained fingertips. The pulse may be palpated in any place that allows an artery to be compressed against a bone, such as at the neck , at the wrist , behind the knee , on the inside of the elbow , and near the...

 was recorded at 64 beats per minute.

Launch

  • 06:07 UTC Launch occurs from the Baikonur Cosmodrome
    Baikonur Cosmodrome
    The Baikonur Cosmodrome , also called Tyuratam, is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, about east of the Aral Sea, north of the Syr Darya river, near Tyuratam railway station, at 90 meters above sea level...

     Site No.1
    Gagarin's Start
    Gagarin's Start is a launch site at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, used for the Soviet space program and now managed by the Russian Federal Space Agency....

    . Korolev radioed, "Preliminary stage..... intermediate..... main..... LIFT OFF! We wish you a good flight. Everything is all right." Gagarin replied, " (Let's ride!)."

  • 06:09 UTC Two minutes into the flight and the four strap-on booster sections of the Vostok rocket have used up the last of their propellant; they shut down and drop away from the core vehicle. (T+ 119 s)

  • 06:10 UTC The payload shroud covering Vostok 1 is released. This uncovers the window at Gagarin's feet with the optical orientation device (lit. "look" or "glance"). (T+ 156 s)

  • 06:12 UTC Five minutes into the flight and the Vostok rocket core stage has used up its propellant, shuts down and falls away from the Vostok spacecraft and final rocket stage. The final rocket stage ignites to continue the journey to orbit. (T+ 300 s)

  • 06:13 UTC The rocket is still firing, pushing Vostok 1 toward orbit. Gagarin reports, "...the flight is continuing well. I can see the Earth. The visibility is good.... I almost see everything. There's a certain amount of space under cumulus cloud cover. I continue the flight, everything is good."

  • 06:14 UTC The rocket continues to fire, starting to pass over central Russia. Gagarin reports, "Everything is working very well. All systems are working. Let's keep going!"

  • 06:15 UTC Three minutes into the burn of the final rocket stage and Gagarin reports, ", I can't hear you very well. I feel fine. I'm in good spirits. I'm continuing the flight..." Vostok 1 is moving further downrange from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. He is reporting back to (the Baikonur ground station) and must be starting to move out of radio range of that station.

Time in orbit

Ground controllers did not know if a stable orbit had been achieved until 25 minutes after launch.
  • 06:17 UTC The Vostok rocket final stage shuts down, ten seconds later the spacecraft separates and Vostok 1 reaches orbit. (T+ 676 s) Gagarin reports, "The craft is operating normally. I can see Earth in the view port of the . Everything is proceeding as planned". Vostok 1 passes over Soviet Union and moves on over Siberia
    Siberia
    Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

    .


  • 06:21 UTC Vostok 1 passes over the Kamchatka peninsula
    Kamchatka Peninsula
    The Kamchatka Peninsula is a peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of . It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west...

     and out over the North Pacific Ocean. Gagarin radios, "...the lights are on on the descent mode monitor. I'm feeling fine, and I'm in good spirits. Cockpit parameters: pressure 1; humidity 65; temperature 20; pressure in the compartment 1; first automatic 155; second automatic 155; pressure in the retro-rocket system 320 atmospheres...."

  • 06:25 UTC As Vostok 1 begins its diagonal crossing of the Pacific Ocean from Kamchatka peninsula to the southern tip of South America, Gagarin asks, "What can you tell me about the flight? What can you tell me?". He is requesting information about his orbital parameters. The ground station at Khabarovsk
    Khabarovsk
    Khabarovsk is the largest city and the administrative center of Khabarovsk Krai, Russia. It is located some from the Chinese border. It is the second largest city in the Russian Far East, after Vladivostok. The city became the administrative center of the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia...

     reports back, "There are no instructions from No. 20 (Sergey Korolyov), and the flight is proceeding normally" They are telling Gagarin that they don't have his orbital parameters yet because the spacecraft has been in orbit for only 6 minutes, but the spacecraft systems are performing well.

  • 06:31 UTC Gagarin transmits to the Khabarovsk ground station, "I feel splendid, very well, very well, very well. Give me some results on the flight!". Vostok 1 is nearing the VHF radio horizon for Khabarovsk and they respond, "Repeat. I can't hear you very well". Gagarin transmits again, "I feel very good. Give me your data on the flight!" Vostok 1 passes out of VHF range of the Khabarovsk ground station and contact is lost.

  • 06:37 UTC Vostok 1 continues on its journey as the Sun sets over the North Pacific. Gagarin crosses into night, northwest of the Hawaiian Islands
    Hawaiian Islands
    The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles from the island of Hawaii in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll...

    . Out of VHF range with ground stations, communications must now take place via HF radio.

  • 06:46 UTC Khabarovsk ground station sends the message "KK" via telegraph (on HF radio to Vostok 1). This message means, "Report the monitoring of commands." They were asking Gagarin to report when the spacecraft automated descent system had received its instructions from the ground control. Gagarin reported back at 06:48 UTC.

  • 06:48 UTC Vostok 1 crosses the equator at about 170° West, traveling in a south east direction and begins crossing the South Pacific. Gagarin transmits over HF radio, "I am transmitting the regular report message: 9 hours 48 minutes (Moscow Time), the flight is proceeding successfully. Spusk-1 is operating normally. The mobile index of the descent mode monitor is moving. Pressure in the cockpit is 1; humidity 65; temperature 20; pressure in the compartment 1.2 ... Manual 150; First automatic 155; second automatic 155; retro rocket system tanks 320 atmospheres. I feel fine...."

  • 06:49 UTC Gagarin reports he is on the night side of the Earth.

  • 06:51 UTC Gagarin reports the sun-seeking attitude control system has been switched on. The sun-seeking attitude control system is used to orient Vostok 1 for retrofire. The automated orientation system consisted of two redundant systems: an automatic/solar orientation system and a manual/visual orientation system. Either system could operate the two redundant cold nitrogen
    Nitrogen
    Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

     gas thruster systems, each with 10 kg (22 lb) of gas.

  • 06:53 UTC The Khabarovsk ground station sends Gagarin the following message via HF radio, "By order of No.33 (General Nikolai Kamanin
    Nikolai Kamanin
    Nikolai Petrovich Kamanin was a Soviet aviator, awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union in 1934 for the rescue of SS Chelyuskin crew from an improvised airfield on the frozen surface of the Chukchi Sea near Kolyuchin Island.In World War II he successfully commanded air brigade, air division...

    ) the transmitters have been switched on, and we are transmitting this: the flight is proceeding as planned and the orbit is as calculated." They tell Gagarin that Vostok 1 is in a stable orbit. He acknowledges the message.

  • 06:57 UTC Vostok 1 is over the South Pacific
    Oceania
    Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago...

     between New Zealand and Chile
    Chile
    Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

     when Gagarin sends this message, "...I'm continuing the flight, and I'm over America. I transmitted the telegraph signal "ON".

  • 07:00 UTC Vostok 1 crosses the Strait of Magellan
    Strait of Magellan
    The Strait of Magellan comprises a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland South America and north of Tierra del Fuego...

     at the tip of South America. News of the Vostok 1 mission is broadcast on Radio Moscow.

  • 07:04 UTC Gagarin sends spacecraft status message, similar to the one sent at 06:48. The message is not received by ground stations.

  • 07:09 UTC Gagarin sends spacecraft status message, the message is not received by ground stations.

  • 07:10 UTC Passing over the South Atlantic, the Sun rises and Vostok 1 is in daylight again. Vostok 1 is 15 minutes from retrofire.

  • 07:13 UTC Gagarin sends spacecraft status message, similar to the one sent at 06:48. Moscow picks up this partial message from Gagarin, "I read you well. The flight is going...."

  • 07:18 UTC Gagarin sends spacecraft status message, the message is not received by ground stations.

  • 07:23 UTC Gagarin sends spacecraft status message, the message is not received by ground stations.


The automatic system brought Vostok 1 into alignment for retrofire about 1 hour into the flight.

Reentry and landing

At 07:25 UTC, the spacecraft's automatic systems brought it into the required attitude (orientation) for the reentry engine firing, and shortly afterwards, the engine firing occurred, also known as retrofire. This took place over the west coast of Africa, near Angola
Angola
Angola, officially the Republic of Angola , is a country in south-central Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city...

, about 8000 km (4,971 mi) from the desired landing point. The liquid-fueled retrorockets fired for about 42 seconds.

Ten seconds after retrofire, commands were sent to separate the Vostok service module
Service module
A service module is a spacecraft compartment containing a variety of support systems used for spacecraft operations. Usually located in the uninhabited area of the spacecraft, the service module is jettisoned upon the completion of the mission, and usually burns up during atmospheric reentry...

 from the reentry module , but the Vostok equipment module unexpectedly remained attached to the reentry module by a bundle of wires. At around 07:35 UTC, the two halves of the spacecraft begin reentry and went through strong gyrations as Vostok 1 neared Egypt. At this point the wires broke, the two modules separated, and the descent module settled into the proper reentry attitude. Gagarin telegraphed "Everything is OK" despite continuing gyrations; he later reported that he did not want to "make noise" as he had (correctly) reasoned that the gyrations did not endanger the mission (and were apparently caused by the spherical shape of the reentry module).

As Gagarin continued his descent, he experienced about 8 g
G-force
The g-force associated with an object is its acceleration relative to free-fall. This acceleration experienced by an object is due to the vector sum of non-gravitational forces acting on an object free to move. The accelerations that are not produced by gravity are termed proper accelerations, and...

 (Gagarin's own report states "over 10 g") during reentry
Atmospheric reentry
Atmospheric entry is the movement of human-made or natural objects as they enter the atmosphere of a celestial body from outer space—in the case of Earth from an altitude above the Kármán Line,...

 but remained conscious.

It should be noted that it had been planned that in case the reentry engine malfunctions, the spacecraft would descend within 10 days anyway due to orbital decay
Orbital decay
Orbital decay is the process of prolonged reduction in the altitude of a satellite's orbit.This can be due to drag produced by an atmosphere due to frequent collisions between the satellite and surrounding air molecules. The drag experienced by the object is larger in the case of increased solar...

. However, the actual orbit differed from the planned and would not allow the descent earlier than in 20 days while the life support system
Life support system
In human spaceflight, a life support system is a group of devices that allow a human being to survive in space.US government space agency NASA,and private spaceflight companies...

 was designed to function for 10 days only.

At 07:55 UTC, when Vostok 1 was still 7 km from the ground, the hatch of the spacecraft was released, and two seconds later Gagarin was ejected. At 2.5 km (8,202.1 ft) altitude, the main parachute was deployed from the Vostok spacecraft. Two schoolgirls witnessed the Vostok landing and described the scene: "It was a huge ball, about two or three metres high. It fell, then it bounced and then it fell again. There was a huge hole where it hit the first time."

Gagarin's parachute opened almost right away, and about ten minutes later, at 08:05 UTC, Gagarin landed. Both he and the spacecraft landed via parachute 26 km (16.2 mi) south west of Engels
Engels (city)
Engels is a city in Saratov Oblast, Russia. It is a port on the Volga River, located across from Saratov and connected to it with a bridge . Population: 163,000 ; 130,000 ; 91,000 ; 22,000 ....

, in the Saratov region
Saratov Oblast
Saratov Oblast is a federal subject of Russia , located in the Volga Federal District. Its administrative center is the city of Saratov. Population: -Demographics:Population:...

 at 51.270682°N 45.99727°E. It was 280 km to the west of the planned landing site (near Baikonur).

A farmer and her daughter observed the strange scene of a figure in a bright orange suit with a large white helmet landing near them by parachute. Gagarin later recalled, "When they saw me in my space suit and the parachute dragging alongside as I walked, they started to back away in fear. I told them, don't be afraid, I am a Soviet like you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!"

Soviet reaction

The Soviet press later reported that minutes before boarding the spacecraft Gagarin made a speech: "Dear friends, you who are close to me, and you whom I do not know, fellow Russians, and people of all countries and all continents: in a few minutes a powerful space vehicle will carry me into the distant realm of space. What can I tell you in these last minutes before the launch? My whole life appears to me as one beautiful moment. All that I previously lived through and did, was lived through and done for the sake of this moment." He actually recorded the speech—"a stream of banalities prepared by anonymous speechwriters"—in Moscow.

American reaction

Officially, the U.S. congratulated the Soviet Union on its accomplishments.

Writing for the New York Times shortly after the flight, however, journalist Arthur Krock
Arthur Krock
Arthur Krock was a journalist and received the nickname "Dean of Washington newsmen". Born in Glasgow, Kentucky in 1887, he grew up with his grandparents, Emmanuel and Henrietta Morris...

 described mixed feelings in the United States due to fears of the spaceflight's potential military implications for the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, and the Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Free Press is the largest daily newspaper in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The Sunday edition is entitled the Sunday Free Press. It is sometimes informally referred to as the "Freep"...

wrote that "the people of Washington, London, Paris and all points between might have been dancing in the streets" if it were not for "doubts and suspicions" about Soviet intentions.. Other US writers reported worries that the spaceflight had won a propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 victory on behalf of Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

. President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 was quoted as saying that it would be "some time" before the US could match the Soviet launch vehicle
Launch vehicle
In spaceflight, a launch vehicle or carrier rocket is a rocket used to carry a payload from the Earth's surface into outer space. A launch system includes the launch vehicle, the launch pad and other infrastructure....

 technology, and that "the news will be worse before it's better." Kennedy also sent congratulations to the Soviet Union for their "outstanding technical achievement." Opinion pages of many US newspapers urged renewed efforts to overtake the Soviet scientific accomplishments.

Adlai Stevenson, then the US ambassador to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, was quoted as saying, "Now that the Soviet scientists have put a man into space and brought him back alive, I hope they will also help to bring the United Nations back alive," and on a more serious note urged international agreements covering the use of space (which did not occur until the Outer Space Treaty
Outer Space Treaty
The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law...

 of 1967).

Other world reactions

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru , often referred to with the epithet of Panditji, was an Indian statesman who became the first Prime Minister of independent India and became noted for his “neutralist” policies in foreign affairs. He was also one of the principal leaders of India’s independence movement in the...

 of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 praised the Soviets for "a great victory of man over the forces of nature" and urged that it be "considered as a victory for peace." The Economist
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

voiced worries that orbital platforms might be used for surprise nuclear attacks
First strike
In nuclear strategy, a first strike is a preemptive surprise attack employing overwhelming force. First strike capability is a country's ability to defeat another nuclear power by destroying its arsenal to the point where the attacking country can survive the weakened retaliation while the opposing...

. The Svenska Dagbladet
Svenska Dagbladet
Svenska Dagbladet is a daily newspaper in Sweden. The first issue appeared on 18 December 1884. Svenska Dagbladet is published in Stockholm and provides coverage of national and international news as well as local coverage of the Greater Stockholm region...

 in Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 chided "free countries" for "splitting up and frittering away" their resources, while West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

's Die Welt
Die Welt
Die Welt is a German national daily newspaper published by the Axel Springer AG company.It was founded in Hamburg in 1946 by the British occupying forces, aiming to provide a "quality newspaper" modelled on The Times...

argued that America had the resources to have sent a man into space first but was beaten by Soviet purposefulness. Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

's Yomiuri Shimbun
Yomiuri Shimbun
The is a Japanese newspaper published in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and other major Japanese cities. It is one of the five national newspapers in Japan; the other four are the Asahi Shimbun, the Mainichi Shimbun, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, and the Sankei Shimbun...

urged "that both the United States and the Soviet Union should use their new knowledge and techniques for the good of mankind," and Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

's Akhbar El Yom
Akhbar El Yom
Akhbar El Yom is an Egyptian newspaper which was founded in 1944. It is released weekly on Saturdays. It has a daily edition called Al-Akhbar. The newspaper is owned by the Egyptian Shura Council and considered a semi-official newspaper. Its current editor in chief is Momtaz Al Ket.- External...

likewise expressed hopes that the cold war would "turn into a peaceful race in infinite space" and turn away from armed conflicts such as the Laotian Civil War.

World record

The FAI
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale is the world governing body for air sports and aeronautics and astronautics world records. Its head office is in Lausanne, Switzerland. This includes man-carrying aerospace vehicles from balloons to spacecraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles...

 rules in 1961 required that a pilot must land with the spacecraft to be considered an official spaceflight for the FAI record books. Although some contemporary Soviet sources stated that Gagarin had parachuted separately to the ground, the Soviet Union officially insisted that he had landed with the Vostok; the government forced the cosmonaut to lie in press conferences, and the FAI certified the flight. The Soviet Union did not admit until 1971 that Gagarin had ejected and landed separately from the Vostok descent module.

When Soviet officials filled out the FAI papers to register the flight of Vostok 1, they stated that the launch site was Baykonur at 47°22′00"N 65°29′00"E. In reality, the launch site was near Tyuratam
Tyuratam
Tyuratam is a station on the main Moscow to Tashkent railway, located in Kazakhstan. The name is a word in the Kazakh language and means "Töre's grave"; Töre, or more formally, Töre-Baba, was a noble, a descendant of Genghis Khan...

 at 45°55′12.72"N 63°20′32.32"E, 250 km (155.3 mi) to the south west of "Baykonur". They did this to try to keep the location of the Space Center a secret. In 1995, Russian and Kazakh
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

 officials renamed Tyuratam Baikonur
Baikonur
Baikonur , formerly known as Leninsk, is a city in Kyzylorda Province of Kazakhstan, rented and administered by the Russian Federation. It was constructed to service the Baikonur Cosmodrome and was officially renamed Baikonur by Russian president Boris Yeltsin on December 20, 1995.The shape of the...

.

Legacy

The landing site is now a monument park. The central feature in the park is a 25 meter tall monument that consists of a silver metallic rocketship rising on a curved metallic column of flame, from a wedge shaped, white stone base. In front of this is a 3 meter tall, white stone statue of Yuri Gagarin, wearing a spacesuit, with one arm raised in greeting and the other holding a space helmet.

The Vostok 1 re-entry capsule is now on display at the RKK Energiya museum
RKK Energiya museum
The RKK Energiya museum is a museum dedicated to the early achievements of Russian space exploration programmes. It is located on the grounds of the RKK Energiya factory in Korolyov, near Moscow....

 in Korolyov
Korolyov (city)
Korolyov or Korolev is an industrial city in Moscow Oblast, Russia, well known as the cradle of Soviet and Russian space exploration. It was originally founded as Kaliningrad in 1938 by Vasily Boldyrev, Naum Nosovsky, and Mikhail Loginov as the leading Soviet center for production of anti-tank...

, near Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

.

In 2011, documentary film maker Christopher Riley
Christopher Riley
Christopher Riley is a British writer, broadcaster and film maker specialising in the history of science. He has a PhD from Imperial College, University of London where he pioneered the use of digital elevation models in the study of mountain range geomorphology and evolution...

 partnered with European Space Agency
European Space Agency
The European Space Agency , established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 18 member states...

 astronaut Paolo Nespoli to record a new film of what Gagarin would have seen of the Earth from his spaceship, by matching historical audio recordings to video from the International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

 following the ground path taken by Vostok 1. The resulting film, First Orbit
First Orbit
First Orbit is a feature-length, experimental documentary film about Vostok 1, the first manned space flight around the Earth. By matching the orbit of the International Space Station to that of Vostok 1 as closely as possible, in terms of ground path and time of day, documentary filmmaker...

, was released online to celebrate the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight.

External links

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