Cosm marks Gagarin's historic voyage
(and travels back in time to 1961... sort of)
Fifty One years ago today, an unknown Russian cosmonaut climbed into a rocket, left the planet and became the first human to travel into space – 108 minutes later, he returned as a national hero of Soviet Russia and an international celebrity.
To mark this historic occasion, I sent Cosm back in time to see how it might have looked in 1961 (with the added benefit of hindsight). So click on the images below to read Cosm (circa 1961) – Amazing science news from the Future!
[Click images to fullscreenify]
Don't forget to check back at 7am tomorrow to watch the global premier of Chris Riley's film, 'First Orbit'.
First human to orbit Earth
Science community already looking forward to celebrating 50th anniversary in 2011
For the first time in his history, mankind has escaped the confines of the Earth and extended his reach into the heavens. At 6.07am on the 12th of April, 1961, 27-year-old Soviet Cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin left the surface of Earth and travelled into space – becoming the first human to do so.
The US space programme was left reeling today as the news came in of the Soviet’s success. Their own space-shot mission is due to launch in a matter of week’s, but it now appears that astronaut Alan Shepard will have to settle for being the first American in space.
Gagarin’s five-tonne spaceship, Vostok 1, was carried into space onboard a converted ballistic missile which propelled the plucky space-navigator to speeds in excess of 18,000km per hour. The launch took place in the remote Soviet region of Kazakhstan.
At the heady altitude of 327km, his craft then proceeded to orbit the Earth – a journey that took just 89 minutes to complete. A mere 108 minutes after leaving the planet in obscurity, Gagarin returned safely to Earth as a national hero and (no doubt) as an international celebrity.
Editor’s note: The following details will be kept secret by the Soviet’s for decades so, in the meantime, please keep them to yourself
Unknown to Gagarin, during launch, the second-stage of the rocket burned for longer than intended –thrusting the Vostok 1 orbiter in to a higher orbit than was intended. This meant that, should his braking engine fail (there was no back-up), it would take Gagarin’s craft 15 days to fall back to Earth. Unfortunately, this would have been five days longer than his food and life-support system would have allowed.
Nor was the return to Earth as smooth as intended. During re-entry, a valve within the braking engine failed to close completely, which let some fuel escape – causing the engine to shut down a second too early. Gases were vented from the craft that caused it to enter into a violent spin. Also, the technical module failed to separate completely from the re-entry section.
Fortunately, the spin subsided and the heat created during re-entry burned through the cable that still the technical module – allowing Gagarin to jettison the craft’s main hatch and eject from the vehicle at an altutude of seven kilometers.*
*This too will be covered up. The rules governing altitude records required that the craft had to land with the pilot still inside. But without an adequate parachute system, it was necessary for Gagarin to bail out.
A most remarkable voyage
During his 108 minutes in space, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to gaze down upon the small blue world we call home. But what was it like to sail silently over the oceans and continents from hundreds of miles above the Earth?
Award-winning filmmaker Christopher Riley and astronaut Paolo Nespoli have teamed to create a film that attempts to recreate Gagarin’s experiences. By closely matching the orbital path of the International Space Station to that of Vostok 1 and filming the view, they have captured a new high definition view of Gagarin’s journey. In 'First Orbit', the footage has been matched up with historic recordings of Gagarin to create a masterpiece of panoramic reflection.