A Milestone for Mankind

Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

Did you know, that on Tuesday April 12th it will be the 55th anniversary of Russian Cosmonaught Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man to go into space? The only reason I was reminded of this fact is because this morning (Sunday) I happened to work the commemorative station RC55YG. Gagarin launched from the Baikonor Cosmodrome at 06:07 local time and upon reaching sufficient velocity, broke free of the Earth’s gravity. below are some little known facts about Gagarin’s historic mission.

How long was Gagarin up there?
The mission lasted just 108 minutes, at 17,500mph the single orbit took just 90 minutes. In that time Vostok 1 completed a not so circular orbit, reaching 203 miles maximum altitude before having to slow to the point where Vostok 1 was pulles back into the atmosphere for a ballistic reentry.

What kind of vessel was the Vostok 1?
Vostok 1 was a spherical capsule designed to eliminate changes in gravity. In that way the craft would ensure maximum comfort for its one man crew no matter what its orientation. What it wasn’t designed to do was land with a man on board.
Unlike later Russian space vehicles like the modern Soyuz capsule, the Vostok was not fitted with thrusters to help slow the vehicle as it headed towards Earth, so Gagarin had to eject before reaching the ground from an altitude of about 4 miles, a fact that the Russians kept out of the press releases because a manned flight was deemed to have to include a manned landing.

What prevented earlier missions from reaching orbit?
Basically it was a lack of speed that prevented it. In order to break free of Earth’s gravity you need to reach a velocity of 5 miles per second or 17,500MPH! Prior to the Vostok 1, no rocket ever had the power to be able to achieve that, bear in mind that most rockets up to that time were old inter contenental ballistic missiles or ICBM’s, which at that time didn’t need to break free of Earth’s gravity.

How did they test the Vostok before Gagarin’s launch?
A few weeks prior to Gagarin’s launch, the Russians launched a Vostok 3KA-2 rocket which was identical to the ship that Gagarin would use into a low Earth Orbit (LEO), this completed one orbit carrying a dummy which was life size and named Ivan Ivanoviich and a dog called Zvezdochk. Ivan was sold at Southerby’s in 1993.

Who was Yuri Gagarin and why was he chosen for the mission.
Yuri Gagarin was a 27 year old USSR Air Force pilot who had served with distinction, he had progressed to the ranks of test pilot and on to chief test pilot for the USSR Air Force Suoer Sonic jet fighters, he knew how to take orders and was calm under pressure, having had many incidents where the aircraft he was testing had gone out of control, Gagarin had always regaind control and landed the aircraft without loss. On his triumphant return from space, he was deemed to be a national treasure and too valuable to be placed in such danger again and so only ever made the one juurney into space.

Launch pad still in use.
The mission launch pad that Gagarin used at the Baikonor Cosmodrome is still in use today, in fact the last crew rotation which took place just over a week ago on the ISS was launched from Gagarin’s launch pad. Baikonor is only one of several launch sites used by Russia’s Federal Space Agency (also known as Roscosmos) but is not in Russia itself, it is in Kazakhstan, a country which was part of the Soviet Union during the Cold War but is now an independant nation.

One last fact.
Modern Cosmonauts still observe ont tradition which was started by Yuri Gagarin during his preflight preperations in 1961. On the way to the launch pad, the bus carrying the crew stops so that members can get out and “take a leak” just as Yuri Gagarin did on the morning he made history!

The first woman in space.
The first woman to go into space was Valentina Tereshkova aboard Vostok 6 which launched on 16th June 1963, she made 48 orbits of the Earth in a flight that lasted 70.8 hours. Tereshkova was a textile worker who had a keen interest in amateur parachute jumping which is what bought her to the attention of the cosmonaut programme.

You will find RC55YG on the HF bands from now until the 15th April 2016 but the station is very busy, I made contact using my KX3 at 10W on 18.159 MHzon Sunday 10th April 2016 at 10:08 Local time. I can’t wait to get the QSL card from this contact!

73 de Mark M0IEO.

This entry was posted in Archives and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.