Soviet cosmonaut made pioneering spaceflight 60 years back

FILE - In this undated file photo, Soviet cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin, first man to orbit the earth, is shown in his space suit. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space 6src years ago. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
1 of29 FILE – In this undated file photo, Soviet cosmonaut Significant Yuri Gagarin, first man to orbit the earth, is shown in his area match. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the very first human in space 60 years earlier. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and sealed Soviet supremacy in space up until the United States put a man on the moon more than 8 years later. File/AP
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 1, 1959 file photo, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin runs during a test in Star City, Russia. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space 6src years ago. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
2 of29 FILE – In this Sunday, Nov. 1, 1959 file picture, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin runs throughout a test in Star City, Russia. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in area 60 years earlier. The effective one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a nationwide hero and sealed Soviet supremacy in area until the United States put a guy on the moon more than 8 years later. File/AP
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FILE - This undated file photo shows Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who orbited the earth in a space ship. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space 6src years ago. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later. (TASS News Agency via AP, File) JAPAN OUT
4 of29 FILE – This undated file photo shows Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who orbited the earth in an area ship. (TASS News Company via AP, File) JAPAN OUT AP
FILE - In this Friday, April 14, 1961 file photo, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, right, greets cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin at the Vnukovo airport in Moscow. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space 6src years ago. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later. (TASS News Agency via AP, File) JAPAN OUT
5 of29 FILE – In this Friday, April 14, 1961 file photo, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, right, greets cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin at the Vnukovo airport in Moscow. (TASS News Agency by means of AP, File) JAPAN OUT Anonymous/AP
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FILE - In this Aug. 18, 1962 file photo, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, center, is flanked by four Soviet cosmonauts as they wave from Lenin's tomb in Moscow's Red Square during a welcome ceremony for cosmonauts Andrian Nikolayev and Pavel Popovich who made a dual orbital space flight. From left are Gherman Titov, Yuri Gagarin, Khrushchev, Nikolayev and Popovich. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
7 of29 FILE – In this Aug. 18, 1962 file picture, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, center, is flanked by four Soviet cosmonauts as they wave from Lenin’s tomb in Moscow’s Red Square during a welcome event for cosmonauts Andrian Nikolayev and Pavel Popovich who made a double orbital space flight. File/AP
FILE - In this July 15, 1961 file photo, Major Yuri Gagarin, the Russian astronaut, waves his greeting to spectators as he leaves the Soviet Embassy in London, United Kingdom, after his visit to Britain. He was mobbed by hundreds of onlookers and well-wishers as he drove from the embassy to London airport. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
8 of29 FILE – In this July 15, 1961 file image, Major Yuri Gagarin, the Russian astronaut, waves his greeting to viewers as he leaves the Soviet Embassy in London, United Kingdom, after his check out to Britain. Dennis Lee Royle/AP
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FILE - In this Tuesday, July 11, 1961 file photo, Russian cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin, center, with a large bouquet on his arm, applauds at the Russian embassy in London, after his arrival from London Airport.The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
10 of29 FILE – In this Tuesday, July 11, 1961 file picture, Russian cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin, center, with a big arrangement on his arm, applauds at the Russian embassy in London, after his arrival from London Airport.The effective one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space till the United States put a male on the moon more than eight years later. File/AP
FILE - In this Tuesday, July 11, 1961 file photo, Soviet spaceman Yuri Gagarin waves after arriving at the London Airport, for a private visit as the guest of the Russian Trade fair. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
11 of29 FILE – In this Tuesday, July 11, 1961 file image, Soviet spaceman Yuri Gagarin waves after coming to the London Airport, for a personal see as the visitor of the Russian Trade fair. The effective one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and sealed Soviet supremacy in area up until the United States put a guy on the moon more than 8 years later on. File/AP
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FILE - In this Tuesday, July 11, 1961 file photo, Major Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut, holds the gold medal of the British Interplanetary Society after it was awarded to him after his press conference at the Soviet exhibition in Earls Court, London. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
13 of29 FILE – In this Tuesday, July 11, 1961 file picture, Significant Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut, holds the gold medal of the British Interplanetary Society after it was awarded to him after his interview at the Soviet exhibition in Earls Court, London. The effective one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and sealed Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a male on the moon more than eight years later on. File/AP
FILE - In this Friday, July 14, 1961 file photo, Major Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut, smiles as he leaves Buckingham Palace in London, United Kingdom, after lunch with Queen Elizabeth II. He is visiting Britain in connection with the soviet exhibition in London. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
14 of29 FILE – In this Friday, July 14, 1961 file image, Significant Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut, smiles as he leaves Buckingham Palace in London, United Kingdom, after lunch with Queen Elizabeth II. He is checking out Britain in connection with the soviet exhibition in London. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and sealed Soviet supremacy in area until the United States put a guy on the moon more than 8 years later on. Brian Calvert/AP
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FILE - In this Tuesday, July 11, 1961 file photo, Russian cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin, standing in an open car, waves to crowds of spectators as he drives into London from the London airport. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
16 of29 FILE – In this Tuesday, July 11, 1961 file image, Russian cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin, standing in an open vehicle, waves to crowds of spectators as he drives into London from the London airport. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and sealed Soviet supremacy in area until the United States put a man on the moon more than 8 years later on. File/AP
FILE - In this Thursday, July 13, 1961 file photo, Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut, sips a cool drink at a reception in his honor at Hyde Park Hotel, London. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
17 of29 FILE – In this Thursday, July 13, 1961 file photo, Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut, sips a cool drink at a reception in his honor at Hyde Park Hotel, London. The effective one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a nationwide hero and sealed Soviet supremacy in area up until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later on. Bob Dear/AP
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FILE - In this Saturday, July 15, 1961 file photo, autograph hunters jostle round Major Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut, at the Soviet Embassy in London, as he left for London airport after his visit to Britain in connection with the soviet exhibition in London. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
19 of29 FILE – In this Saturday, July 15, 1961 file picture, autograph hunters jostle round Major Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut, at the Soviet Embassy in London, as he left for London airport after his visit to Britain in connection with the soviet exhibit in London. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in area up until the United States put a guy on the moon more than eight years later on. Dennis Lee Royle/AP
FILE - In this Tuesday, July 11, 1961 file photo, Mrs. John Profumo, formerly actress Valerie Hobson, now the wife of the Secretary of State for War, shakes hands with Major Yuri Gagarin, Russia's cosmonaut, at a reception given in Gagarin's honor at the Soviet Embassy in London. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
20 of29 FILE – In this Tuesday, July 11, 1961 file image, Mrs. John Profumo, formerly actress Valerie Hobson, now the partner of the Secretary of State for War, shakes hands with Major Yuri Gagarin, Russia’s cosmonaut, at a reception given up Gagarin’s honor at the Soviet Embassy in London. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a nationwide hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in area up until the United States put a male on the moon more than 8 years later. Bob Dear/AP
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FILE In this Wednesday, July 26, 1961 file photo, Cuba's leader Fidel Castro, left, a regular cigar smoker, opens a box of Russian cigarettes while sitting beside Russia's spaceman Yuri Gagarin at a reception during the four-day celebration at the Russian Embassy in Havana. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
22 of29 FILE In this Wednesday, July 26, 1961 file photo, Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro, left, a routine cigar cigarette smoker, opens a box of Russian cigarettes while sitting next to Russia’s spaceman Yuri Gagarin at a reception throughout the four-day celebration at the Russian Embassy in Havana. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space till the United States put a male on the moon more than eight years later on. File/AP
FILE - This Tuesday, April 5, 2src11 file photo, shows an undated photo of the first man in space Yuri Gagarin and his wife Valentina on a display at the upper house of Russian parliament in Moscow, Russia. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
23 of29 FILE – This Tuesday, April 5, 2011 file image, shows an undated picture of the very first male in area Yuri Gagarin and his partner Valentina on a display screen at the upper house of Russian parliament in Moscow, Russia. The effective one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space till the United States put a male on the moon more than 8 years later. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
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FILE - This Monday, April 11, 2src11 file photo shows an undated portrait of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, and his award of the Hero of the Soviet Union, at right, as part of an exhibition dedicated to the 5srcth anniversary of the first man in space, in Moscow, Russia. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
25 of29 FILE – This Monday, April 11, 2011 file photo reveals an undated picture of the very first man in area, Yuri Gagarin, and his award of the Hero of the Soviet Union, at right, as part of an exhibit devoted to the 50 th anniversary of the very first man in space, in Moscow, Russia. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space till the United States put a guy on the moon more than eight years later. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
A Vostok rocket similar to the one that carried Yuri Gagarin on his flight to space is displayed in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 9, 2src21. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space 6src years ago. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
26 of29 A Vostok rocket similar to the one that carried Yuri Gagarin on his flight to area is displayed in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 9, 2021. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
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This Friday, Oct. 19, 2src18 photo shows the 42-meter (138-feet) high and 12 ton (26,455 pounds) monument built in 198src of Yuri Gagarin, the first person who flew to space, became a Moscow landmark. Gagarin's statue standing on a pedestal made to resemble a rocket exhaust is made of titanium. The successful one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27-year-old Gagarin a national hero and cemented Soviet supremacy in space until the United States put a man on the moon more than eight years later.
28 of29 This Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 photo reveals the 42- meter (138- feet) high and 12 lot (26,455 pounds) monolith built in 1980 of Yuri Gagarin, the first individual who flew to area, became a Moscow landmark. Gagarin’s statue standing on a pedestal made to resemble a rocket exhaust is made from titanium. The effective one-orbit flight on April 12, 1961 made the 27- year-old Gagarin a national hero and sealed Soviet supremacy in space till the United States put a man on the moon more than 8 years later. Maxim Marmur/AP
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MOSCOW (AP)– Crushed into the pilot’s seat by heavy G-forces, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin saw flames outside his spacecraft and prepared to die. His voice broke the tense silence at ground control: “I’m burning. Bye-bye, pals.”

Gagarin didn’t know that the blazing inferno he observed through a porthole was a cloud of plasma swallowing up Vostok 1 during its re-entry into the Earth’s environment, and he was still on track to return securely.

It was his peaceful composure under pressure that helped make him the very first human in area 60 years ago.

Gagarin’s steely self-control was a crucial element behind the success of his pioneering 108- minute flight. The April 12, 1961, mission encountered problems and emergencies– from a capsule hatch stopping working to shut properly prior to blastoff to parachute issues in the final moments before touchdown.

From the time 20 Soviet air force pilots were picked to train for the first crewed spaceflight, Gagarin’s calm temperament, fast knowing skills and beaming smile made him an early favorite.

Two days before blastoff, the 27- year-old Gagarin wrote a goodbye letter to his spouse, Valentina, sharing his pride in being chosen to ride in Vostok 1 however likewise attempting to console her in the event of his death.

” I fully rely on the equipment, it mustn’t let me down. If something takes place, I ask you Valyusha not to end up being broken by sorrow,” he composed, utilizing a label for her.

Authorities kept the letter and ultimately offered it to Gagarin’s widow seven years later on after he died in an aircraft crash. She never remarried.

Gagarin’s pioneering, single-orbit flight made him a hero in the Soviet Union and a worldwide celeb. After putting the world’s first satellite into orbit with the effective launch of Sputnik in October 1957, the Soviet area program, rushed to secure its supremacy over the United States by putting a male into area.

” The task was set, and people were oversleeping their offices and factory shops, like at wartime,” Fyodor Yurchikhin, a Russian cosmonaut who eventually made 5 spaceflights, recalled.

As the Soviet rocket and area program raced to beat the Americans, it suffered a series of launch failures throughout 1960, including a devastating launch pad explosion in October that killed 126 people. Missile Forces chief Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin was amongst the victims.

Like Gagarin, Soviet officials were prepared for the worst. No safety system had actually been installed to conserve the cosmonaut in case of another rocket explosion at blastoff or after.

Authorities drafted 3 versions of a bulletin about Gagarin’s flight for the main TASS news agency: one announcing an effective flight, another in case of problems, and the third one for an objective ending in disaster.

Apart from potential engine failures and other equipment malfunctions, researchers questioned a person’s capability to endure the conditions of spaceflight. Many anxious that a pilot could freak in orbit.

Soviet engineers prepared for that scenario by developing a completely automatic control system. As an additional preventative measure, the pilot would receive a sealed envelope including a secret code for activating the capsule’s manual controls. The theory was that a person who could get in the code should be sane sufficient to operate the ship.

Everybody in the area program liked Gagarin so much, nevertheless, that a senior instructor and a leading engineer individually shared the secret code with him before the flight to conserve him the problem of adjusting the envelope in case of an emergency situation.

Issues began right after Gagarin entered into Vostok 1, when a light confirming the hatch’s closure did not go on. Working at a frenzied speed, a leading engineer and a colleague removed 32 screws, found and repaired a defective contact, and put the screws back in the nick of time for the scheduled launch.

Sitting in the capsule, Gagarin whistled a tune. “Poyekhali!”– “Off we go!”– he shouted as the rocket launched.

As another precaution, the orbit was prepared so the spacecraft would come down on its own after a week if an engine burn failure stranded the ship. Rather, a problem resulted in a greater orbit that would have left Gagarin dead if the engine had actually malfunctioned at that stage.

While the engine worked as prepared to send the ship home, a fuel loss resulted in an unforeseen reentry path and a greater speed that made the ship rotate wildly for 10 painful minutes.

Gagarin later on stated he nearly blacked out while experiencing G-forces surpassing 10 times the pull of gravity. “There was a minute long lasting two or 3 seconds when instruments started fading prior to my eyes,” he recalled.

Seeing a cloud of intense plasma around his ship on re-entry, he believed his ship was burning.

A soft-landing system had not been designed yet, so Gagarin ejected from the module in his spacesuit and deployed a parachute. A reserve chute unfolded in addition to the primary parachute, making it difficult for him to manage his descent, however he landed safely on a field near the Volga River in the Saratov area.

Gagarin was flown to Moscow to a hero’s welcome, hailed by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and welcomed by enthusiastic crowds cheering his flight as a triumph on par with the success in World War II. In the years before he passed away at age 34, he indulged in global splendor, visiting lots of countries to celebrate his historical mission.

” The gigantic propaganda impact of the Sputnik launch and especially Gagarin’s flight was really crucial,” Moscow-based air travel and space expert Vadim Lukashevich stated. “We all of a sudden beat America even though our nation hadn’t recuperated yet from the huge damage and casualties” from World War II.

Gagarin was eliminated in a training jet crash on March 27,1968 Not quite 16 months later on, the U.S. beat the Soviet Union in the area race, putting an astronaut on the moon.

The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union ended the period of competition. Russia’s efforts to develop brand-new rockets and spacecraft have faced unlimited delays, and the nation has actually continued to rely on Soviet-era innovation. Amid the stagnancy, the much-criticized state space corporation Roscosmos has concentrated on a costly plan to construct its brand-new, rocket-shaped headquarters on the site of a dismantled rocket factory.

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Associated Press journalists Kostya Manenkov and Kirill Zarubin in Moscow contributed to this report.

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