This week marks the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin‘s flight into space – a huge risk for a very brave man: imagine trusting your life to Soviet engineers in such a project!
Some years ago I watched a BBC reconstruction of the Vostok 1 flight in which they said that when TASS made its triumphant announcement of Gagarin’s flight, even as it went on, the ground staff thought he had a less than 50% chance of getting out alive: essentially that is why the Soviet authorities had to make the announcement during the journey and not after.
Happily Gagarin’s bravery had its just reward and he did land safely – instantly becoming the most famous man on the planet.
(If you haven’t seen The Right Stuff and you have some sort of interest in space travel then you really ought to buy it and watch: the semi-comic scenes of repeated American panic at Soviet space successes are by no means the highlight of the film, but they do linger in the memory.)
- In the Sign of the Red Star: On the Iconographic Coding of the Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (3quarksdaily.com)
- Yuri Gagarin concerned about sausages before space trip (telegraph.co.uk)
- “Yuri Gagarin: 50 years ago” and related posts (motls.blogspot.com)
- “Gagarin: the smiling cosmonaut” and related posts (cclblog.wordpress.com)