Tuesday, April 12, 2022

ANNIVERSARY OF GAGARIN’S FLIGHT

 It’s April 12, 1961, when a boy from a small Russian village realizes his dream of "reaching the stars". 

Exactly 61 years ago, after a hard training, the young 27-year-old Yuri Gagarin is preparing to climb the ramp that takes him aboard the capsule Vostok 1. He will be the first man in human history to fly into space. It was chosen by the Russian space agency for its personality and small stature. The departure is set at 9:07, Moscow time. When the engines start, the voltage is palpable. The powerful rocket engines shake the launch pad, then, the Vostok 1 begins the ascent into the sky.

 Gagarin, aware of the historical moment he is experiencing, exclaims "Let’s go!" while the Vostok 1 spacecraft, driven by a computer controlled by the base, takes it beyond the atmosphere. A few minutes after the departure, at 9:12, Gagarin turned his gaze to the outside and the scene in front of him was moving. For the first time in the history of humanity, a man can admire all the beauty of our planet from above and communicates "I see the Earth... it is magnificent!". Its flight lasts just under 110 minutes, ninety of which are needed to make an orbit around the Earth, reaching the maximum altitude of 302 km. Man has finally reached the dream of flying in space.

At take-off, the cosmonaut should have used the established expression "Crew, I’m taking off!" But as he later stated, he decided to break protocol. He didn’t understand the point of turning to the crew when he was the only one on board.

On board with him, Gagarin had a gun that was given to him in case he landed in a remote area, where he might have to defend himself from wild animals.

The famous inscription "Urss" ("CCCP" in Russian) that we see on Gagarin’s helmet was affixed only 20 minutes before takeoff. It was done at the last moment, when they realized that if he landed in a wasteland, the astronaut could be mistaken for a foreign spy.

Curious anecdote that happened on the way to the launch pad. Gagarin could no longer hold her, and asked the bus driver to stop. The bus, at that point, pulled over and calmly Gagarin got off, took a position near the rear wheel, and there he got free. Since then that gesture has become an auspicious ritual for all astronauts who repeat, every time, before a launch. 

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