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Yuri Gagarin: Sixty years since the first man went into space · 405 HN points · 0 HN comments
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The BBC speaks to the woman who, as a child, witnessed Yuri Gagarin's return to Earth 60 years ago.
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Apr 12, 2021 · 405 points, 174 comments · submitted by spzb
Amazing it was only 60 years ago.

My favourite Gagarin story was when he visited Manchester on a rainy day and they wanted to replace the open top car for a car with a roof. Gagarin said no that if the people waited in the rain then the least he could do was sit in an open top car

Most amazing he also came to Cyprus and I was a kid at the time. We all went to see him in his car parade. Posters with his picture were left pasted on walls for many years. Video here
> he visited Manchester on a rainy day

Are there any other kinds of days there?

Can confirm there is one day of sun a year

source: spent three years at uni there

It is sunny right now.
A whole day of sun? That’s not the Manchester I remember.
Yes, it's the one day you are caugh inside doing important work.
Only rains in Manchester when Londoners come to visit. Got to keep up appearances.
Live from Manchester, it's sunshine here today and same for the rest of the week! :)
It's tricky because the sunshine is grey.
I know a tautology when I see one.
Old joke:

Q: Are there any other kinds of days there? A: Don't know. I haven't been there long enough Q: How long is that A: All my life.

It is an amazing story. Stories like this break barriers of nations, languages and status and make humans out of these otherwise exalted individuals.
There was no barrier between USSR and Britain nations, the barrier was between USSR government and democratic world.
My grandparents met him when he toured the Metrovick [1] site, grandfather was a senior engineer there.


I didn't know until recently the landing method they used for this flight. Gagarin was incredibly brave.

First, the Vostok reentered and opened a parachute to slow down. Then it blew the hatch and fired him out of the capsule in his ejection seat, which fired its own parachute. Then somewhat lower, Gagarin had to jump out of the ejection seat with his own parachute and land. That is a lot of things that all have to work to land safely.

It's possible that the multiple parachute system to be just built-in redundancies out of functional safety reasons, so that any successfully deployed parachute to actually render the next parachute deployment unnecessary.
So it's parachutes all the way down.
Always has been.
And this is one of simpler spacecrafts.

I'd really prefer Dream Chaser to get completed, I think failure modes on winged crafts are better.

Just before COVID I trekked into Baïkonour - just next to the building with the Burans is Yuri Gagarin's launch pad - which is quite amazing to see.

Photos for the interested: (Gagarin's launch pad in the second to last photo)

Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing.
What a mess. Is the hangar on the first photos abandoned? Can anyone freely get inside?

(Beautiful photos!)

There are a multitude of abandoned structures (including the tall building next to this one, with a life size mockup of Russia's heavy lift rocket).

It's not legal, but if you're willing make the 35km hike in, it's not highly protected either (at least for the abandoned structures - I wouldn't go near the active launch structures).

With that said, you can also take legal (albeit expensive) tours, which look quite fascinating as well - staying in the Sputnik hotel, seeing the Gagarin launch pad, etc

Not the most technical of narrations of the Buran but it details the trek which they make mid-winter at night to avoid patrols
Similar for my trip, the Kazak winter has certain advantages, but also increases logistic difficulties (-30°C.. everything freezes..), and you have to be completely autonomous. We were severely limited by water, and the continuous juggle to rotate water and gas canisters inside your jackets to keep everything liquid as possible.

Likewise winter also means you have to work extra hard to cover tracks etc..

I've witnessed firsthand the launch of forth ISS expedition on April 2004. Wanted to see the launch directly with eyes, so the video was shot without aiming :) .

Regarding Baykonur infrastructure - it's similar, in a sense of relation to a high achievement, to the Voyager restaurant in Mojave, California. Similar feelings.

I'm russian and April 12 is a sad day. We have a phrase: "Юра, мы все проебали" (Yura, we fucked up everything). The most terrifying though is if Gagarin stays alive till now and helps government to propose awful laws like Tereshkova (first woman in space).
"Проябать" in Russian means something like "to loose through laziness/carelessness/neglect", not "to loose through incorrectly performed action" where neglect is used in a rather broad sense also covering the case of "stealing a part under an assumption that it does not matter for the functionality".

So a more closer-in-meaning translation is "Yura, we lost everything through our laziness and neglect", which describes the situation much more accurately.

It's spelled "проебать" (and it's a pretty foul language).

Quite correct otherwise.

Literally it means to lose something through a sexual act.
Mind my french, but it can also just mean loose without passive connotation, like in 'loosing a game', also can be in the sense of пропить (that means 'waste on booze', now how do you translate that one, in one word?)
The same way you'd say it in Russian. It's all about context.

"He drank through his inheritance."

'drank through' is two words, not one.
What are you talking about? Russia has more cosmonauts [1] than any other nation!


The planet as a whole is also "we", and it doesn't have anywhere near enough.
Um, did you read what happened to Yuri who should have lived out a long life as a celebrated cosmonaut?
Likely it was an accident, but I see your point. Dead heroes are much better for propaganda than alive heroes: with the dead you don't need to worry what they might say or do. Valery Chkalov (AKA Gagarin of the 1930s) didn't live long, too.
Sure, but everything else, from politics to the economy to general public welfare is a more of a mess than not.

Things are okay in Moscow, so-so in the other tier-1 cities, and the rest of the country is languishing.

I think you didn't visit that link i provided...
i think that phase is referring to the deindustrialization/loss of industrial base in the countries of the former Ussr.
This is not a sad day, despite some hopefully temporary setback in the space exploration. А ты дурак.
No need for namecalling/insults.
How many launches Rogozin did in 2020 comparing to US and China? What about a trend for last 5 years? How about planned launches in 2021? There is a real decline and only a blind person cannot see it.

You can drink Vodka every year and be proud of Gagarin but it will not help to change anything about russian space.

The size of the Russian economy is smaller than the USSR. They're are US states with larger economies.
Economy size tends to shrink, when nearly half your population decides to leave.
This news is a tribute to Yuri and everyone involved. You may create your own topic on what Rogozin did or did not. I am pretty sure people will upvote.
IMHO, there is no point in shallow celebration. Especially if recall how many people made engineering work in literal prisons. Today is pinnacle of totalitarianism.

July 20 is more appropriate date to be proud of humanity.

November 9th, too.
The phrase is somewhat common, yes, but it's not related to April 12 or Gagarin in any way. It is about the decline that happened later, not about Gagarin. April 12 is a happy day for most Russians, and ex-USSR people in general.

It saddens me to see how current Russian government (de facto Russian government, I should add) uses the achievements of the past to promote their own agenda though.


  - Daddy, daddy! Russians are in the space!!!
  - All of them?
  - No, just one!
  - So, why you are shouting then?
It's too early to celebrate.
Gagarin's name is included on the plaque for the Fallen Astronaut sculpture secretly placed on the moon by the crew of Apollo 15:

Gagarin died during a test flight, this is not some sort of pre-Twitter trolling. Perhaps it was not your intention to suggest it, but it was my first thought. Maybe the social media broke me.
I just thought it was an awesome mark of respect to their colleagues of all nations.
> Gagarin died during a test flight

Actually, not a test flight - a rather routine one, and most sources seem to think that the problem was adverse weather.

From wikipedia:

"On 27 March 1968, while on a routine training flight from Chkalovsky Air Base, Gagarin and flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin died when their MiG-15UTI crashed "

It's not a list of people who died in space or during space flight. It's list of people who died while serving as astronauts or cosmonauts.

Astronaut Edward G. Givens Jr. included in the Fallen Astronaut plaque died in a car accident before being assigned to a prime or backup spaceflight crew.

It's impressive what the Soviet Union achieved with "analog" technology. I did not know they had landed a rover on the moon. Imagine all the automation this requires, but without any advanced electronics. Was it all relays and switches? They were also the first to photograph the other side of the moon. Imagine what it took to develop the photos in space and beam them back to earth. I can't possibly imagine doing this without a digital sensor.

PS. Not a Soviet Union fan otherwise...

The Soviets/Russians were still flying with analog tech on-board Soyuz until 2010 (TMA-M variant was the first "all digital" Soyuz). And of course, Soyuz is effectively "just" an upgraded Vostok/Sputnik/R-7. No parts in common between them anymore, but philosophically the same rocket design has been flying since 1957.
> Imagine all the automation this requires, but without any advanced electronics. Was it all relays and switches?

Yes, basically. My understanding is that it was a very fancy RC car with extra strong antennas to be able to give video feeds from the 4 cameras and receive commands live from Earth. (Plus bells and whistles like solar panels and a plutonium heater, see [0].)

The moon is only 1 light second away, so remote controlling a car that moves at 1 mph is not too much of an issue. (Though with bad video quality it is still a challenge, see the fate of Lunokhod 2.)


> Imagine what it took to develop the photos in space and beam them back to earth.

For one type of satellite that I heard about, the US were dropping the film canisters and catching them in flight, to develop later:

Not really, back at the dawn of semiconductors, union's space programme was spoon fed best components from all over the world.

Original Vostok had higher engineering standards than crafts that were launched more than a decade later, after the hype subsided below the level needed to keep the space programme a top level state project.

Their Venus photos are amazing.
One of the engineers on the failed (and later covered up) soviet moon program supposedly said that if not for soviet focus on automation, they would have been first on the moon - and that in comparison, Americans "eyeballed it".

Not entirely true on american side, but there was a definite trend on US side to depend more on human in the loop.

Required viewing:
Soviet moon mission had real trouble with the booster, which had many engines; this is not something you can realistically control by hand. In short, the boosters kept blowing up:

(That setup was later avenged for all its tragic mishaps by SpaceX's Falcons.)

That's one of the options they had for moon flight, and arguably the critical part that closed their chance to get there first.

But a lot of other options, doable earlier, would have been possible if there was less perfectionism applied to automated flight - that's the argument I've heard.

N.B. Currently used Soyuz spacecraft (not the carrier rocket) is derived from the moon program capsule.

Space booster stage flying on Proton and Zenith, Blok D, is also derived from the fifth stage in the Moon expedition stack. Its engine is also the predecessor of the main engine of Buran. Lunar spacecraft technology helped with later creation of space probes, like Vega, and flying today space booster Fregat.
No, it was a great messup with Kremlin messing up the space programme big time, appointing talking heads, and "micromanaging the launch proceedures all the way from Moscow"
Well, yes. Had Korolev lived, he would have probably kept control over it, same way he led USSR to being first with Sputnik and Voskhod.
When I studied life and work of Korolev, I could not help but meditate on the idea that great individuals really do make a difference.

His death was a major setback for the Soviet space program. Arguably they never found a real replacement for him.

No, they didn't. I sometimes think Elon Musk - with all the differences - is a comparable figure.
It's not as much the number of engines, which troubled N-1. For example, when Soyuz launcher starts, it has 32 chambers - not engines - running simultaneously, and it's a rather robust and reliable rocket.

What was the probable reason is the lack of testing of the huge system of the first stage of N-1 all together - test stands required lots of money and also time, both were in short supply (N-1 is surprisingly a rather inexpensive rocket, in comparison, say, to a better flown Energiya). Engines on the first stage were also untested, by design - they were single-start engines, so they couldn't be tested on a test stand before actual launch.

Both of these problems were taken into account when Energiya was developed. It had a huge "stand-start", both for testing and for launching, and engines were fully reusable, with the idea of later returning the first stage of the launcher (horizontal landing, with parachutes) and flying it again.

I heard a story about Gagarin, but I cannot find any sources to confirm it now. One day he was driving home tired and caused a car accident. When the police arrived at the scene and saw him, they said he is free to go and that they will deal with the guilty party, some poor old man. Shortly Gagarin turned back and admitted the guilt, he couldn't have it on his conscience. He was a man of integrity.

Rumors surrounding his mysterious death were that the government thought the heroes should die young, before they become irrelevant or screw up and damage their image. The hero cult was very strong in Soviet Union.

'For all mankind' shows if the space race continued; brings to heart what these people felt after going up and to the moon only to be stuck in earth orbit maximum for the next 40 years.
It's really good show (created and written by Ronald D. Moore). Writers try to take the technical and scientific advise seriously as much as they can.

In the second season they show new spacecraft designs that are based on actual proposals. Like the Sea Dragon super heavy-lift launch vehicle.

They also introduce androgynous mating system that is very similar to International Docking System Standard (IDSS)

Nitpick: I think the Sea Dragon launch is actually first shown right at the very end of season 1.

What I particularly like about the show is how technology advances more quickly in their timeline - e.g. electric car, cell phones in the 1980s.

And yet somehow the whole S2 in centered about Space Shuttle program - years after a successful Sea Dragon launch. This was the most unbelievable development in the whole show.
And those are completely believable or did already exist.

1G (analog cellular networks) already existed. NASA administrator might have had Motorola DynaTAC 8000X in 1983 even in our timeline.

EV car that runs 60 miles with a single charge is a real change to our timeline, but believable if the investment into EV would have been huge (needed in the moon and space in large quantities).

Overall, the worldbuilding that went into that show is impressive. Many events in the show actually happened, but are resolved differently or have different consequences.

EV cars with an 80 mile range were available in 1911 in this very timeline ....

I'm re-watching this right now.

It is a great show.

The movie was better.
I am not sure they are comparable. The movie is a documentary and the TV Show is an alternative history exploration of the space race.
I would not categorize the movie as a documentary. There's no narration. The audio is all from the Apollo communications system, except for the music by Brian Eno.
It has some great visuals and some of the character/casts are great (Margo), and it gives interesting perspective on how the astronauts feel in their job, ups and downs. However, lots of "human-story" scenes are too tangential, boring and slow. Sex topics are completely out of place and boring.

The radiation storm on the Moon was very nice, very mesmerizing, but story-wise, it was squandered. The heroism scene was mediocre.

Ronald Moore did great with Galactica, but this show is a mixed bag. Not that great.

Also, somehow they don't do good music in shows these days. It is too generic and forgettable.

It's a good show, but it needs to have a bit more sci fi and a lot less pointless relationship drama.
Agreed. I really wanted to like it, but I thought it would be more about cold-war-on-the-moon rather than mostly about the gender, race, and sexuality of the American astronauts.
If you're in to the space race, don't miss Public Service Broadcasting - Race for Space album. They have an epic track for Gagarin:

The entire album is one of my favourites of all time.

Go! gives me goosebumps every time
Glad to see someone post this. The album is great and quite an inspirational listen.
>"For the USSR, Yuri Gagarin’s single orbit of the Earth was a huge achievement and propaganda coup."

And of course the opposite side did not use their without question great achievements for propaganda. Just pure love of mankind.

Can they just for once enjoy the ride and celebrate without adding bit of venom?

BBC Radio 4 also presented a good hour-long segment on Gagarin last weekend
For those interested in the detailed and honest exposition of the Soviet Space Program there is a great book written by Korolev deputy Boris Chertok (head of automation for Space Program). The book was translated into English by NASA and is available for free as a PDF file on the NASA's web site [0]


Also 40 years to the day since the first US Space Shuttle launch



"Fire in the sky"

  Gagarin was the first, back in 1961
  When like Icarus, undaunted, he climbed to reach the Sun
  And he knew he might not make it, for it's never hard to die
  But he lifted off the pad, and rode a fire in the sky!
Does anyone have a good source describing if and how American space program changed after Gagarin? What I'm interested in is to know how the US reacted and if they assimilated bits and pieces of Soviet technology/processes for their own purposes, seeing as they were now field-tested and successful.
People go on an on about the moon but sputnik and gagarin were the real achievement.
How do you know it was real? Russian propaganda still says the American moon landing was filmed in Nevada, might the Vostok 1 mission be a hoax as well?
Those are the homegrown idiotic propaganda, the Russian variety has more logic in it.
Russian propaganda does not say that. Putin himself said on multiple occasions that any theories of staging moon landings are silly. Don’t have a reference at the moment but I have seen several Putin’s interviews to that effect.

Russian propaganda is alive and well on many topics but denying American moon landings is not one of them.

Well you could track and listen to sputnik as it went overhead back in the day with a standard radio. Pretty hard to fake that...
A rather popular opinion in Russian space circles is that there were three towering events in space - Sputnik on October 4 '57, Gagarin on April 12 '61 and Armstrong on July 20 '69. And no fourth so far - e.g. first Columbia flight isn't of that level of importance.
Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins has made the case that Apollo 8, the first mission to venture outward from low Earth orbit, deserves a place in this pantheon and is arguably more epochal than Apollo 11. It is a question of which is more significant: venturing outward for the first time, or arriving somewhere for the first time. Collins has said that, as time passes, that first tentative outward journey feels more significant to him on the grand timeline of human history than the first step on the Moon.
Apollo 8 technically is significantly simpler than Apollo 11. Many Apollo 8 results could perhaps be achieved by USSR with two launches of Proton. They can argue if that high orbit - 400,000 km apogee - and entering Moon orbit is that much of a qualitative step. In a sense, getting to orbit is already venturing outward, and Apollo 8 is venturing somewhat furter - not clear to me how much is it of a difference.
Certainly Apollo 11 is far more technically audacious than Apollo 8, and the Soviets really did get quite close to a slightly simpler version of Apollo 8 (and could have pulled it off given enough time and effort--whereas landing on the moon was beyond their reach without much more funding to integrate and test N-1 properly).

Collins is speaking more of the historical and philosophical significance of stepping away from the shores of our lonesome island.

No parties for Yuri's Night this year :( This year it's virtual only.
A fitting tribute:
that's a movie recreation of Gagarin's space flight . Cheers!

the movie mentions the scene of the lady and her grandma's meeting with Gagarin as mentioned in the linked article, so it must have gotten right something.

i have the honor of touching a return capsule that brought a human back from space. How many people in the 7 billion can say that?
Anyone who visited a museum near Moscow (if you want the very first one), or a bunch of expositions across the US (if you want those which traveled to the moon):
I did, in US. Russia sells spent capsules for souveniers these day.
I once saw something (probably a space capsule) in the Science Museum, London.
I'm pretty sure that'll be the Soyuz capsule that Tim Peake flew to & from ISS on (Soyuz TMA-19M), hence the UK interest. I saw it on temporary display in Edinburgh before it went down to London for permanent display at the Science Museum.
There's one in my hometown on public display. I could risk a guess tens of thousands of people touched it.
oh. that was years ago, probably in 2015 i guess
I always felt bad for Yuri. The Americans made a huge deal about John Glenn, yet his record is basically worthless. Yuri had done it all before, but it seems some people refused to acknowledge it. This was one of the first things that opened my eyes that propaganda still exists.
> The Americans made a huge deal about John Glenn, yet his record is basically worthless.

The whole reason the US was in the race to the moon was because the had lost the race to space (Sputnik, and then Yuri). The US badly needed a win.

Though I do wonder: had the Soviet Union been first to the moon as well, would that have sparked a race to Mars?
I would have thought most people here in the UK remember Gagarin but few would remember Glenn without prompting. Is that not the case elsewhere in the world?
If you've seen The Right Stuff or Hidden Figures, you'd be hard pressed to forget.
It's very common for movies made by Americans, with American money and intended to be viewed by Americans to glorify America and Americans.
Yep, they're both about Americans. Although the Soviets do play their parts as competitors. He also rode a space shuttle in retirement.
Gagarin is my childhood hero, never heard about Glenn.
Americans always like to overinflate their early spaceflight accomplishments.

There is a whole fight on about it

tl;dr: Yuri Gagarin is listed first on the page with 2 "Firsts", but Alan Shepard is listed second with four.

Even though, two of his "firsts" are already superceded by what Gagarin did.

"First Person to make suborbital flight"? So? Gagarin already made a suborbital flight before he made his orbital flight.

"First Person to land in water"? So? Shouldn't that mean that Gagarin should have an entry that says "First person to land on land?"

Commie bastard, got what he deserves.
60 years of very little progress. Unfortunately our generation decided to go on Facebook instead of going to space.
Give me a choice and i know what i'll choose (hint; space is big, inhospitable and quite boring).
Need to solve the light speed problem. We still have figured out the physics to really take flight.
In our solar system there are plenty of destinations to go to, projects to do. Like mining the asteroid belt and moving all the heavy industry that produces CO2 or other pollutants to space. Make space flights as cheap and reliable as commercial flights on Earth. And so on. These you can solve without FTL.
>Need to solve the light speed problem

it will come in due course. Most probably you can't do Alcubierre drive (or any other promising FTL) on a planet surface or near large gravitational bodies, and the energy source for it is also most probably not environmentally friendly, so you anyway need to be in space to do it. So we need to build up starting from what we have - for now we can explore Solar system, like colonize Mars, build large space stations, etc. with fission engines, and with fusion (or with nuclear Orion like) we can get a probe to Alpha Centauri at up to 0.1c. Unfortunately, if one excludes Musk, there has been no meaningful progress in the recent decades, and that is puzzling and very disconcerting - the drive to kind of collapse/implode our civilization into an extremely stable state of highly connected absolutely socially cohesive planetary scale ant-city seems to be winning over the civilization expansion drive which has almost died ( and i think that is one of the Great Filters, and it is very possible that we will also not make past it).

GP>to go on Facebook instead of going to space

if it can't be fought, may be it can be harnessed - lets hope that influencers instagramming from the dark side of the Moon will provide a sizeable cashflow and popular support for the space development.

Dark plot twist that would make for a interesting tv series/book:

"...Gagarin was not the first man in space from the USSR side, it wasnt just dogs they sent up to this point..."

q HBO intro

He was the first man to come back from space alive (disclaimer: two members of my family worked for the space program) and what's really peculiar about his case is that he was chosen not only based on his undoubtedly stellar qualifications as a pilot but also because he was a handsome chap.
There was also the purely physical qualification that he was only 157 cm tall. Size matters when sending payloads to space.
Damn, it bothers me that your comment was down voted. Are there no consequences for those who unjustly down vote?

In fact considering what I know of dictatorship regimes you could be right. They are generally big on showmanship and public image, with scant regard for human life.

Absolutely. It was all about PR. Still is but no substance to back it up in the least.
Everything I’ve read about Gagarin suggests that he was a phenomenal person. People liked him as a person. He was both smart and kind. Add in his personal bio and it’s not hard to see why the Soviet leaders picked him.
first man survived going into space
I don't know what you're referring up. Did we ever end up sending a dead human body into space?
He is referring to Lost Cosmonauts conspiracy theory

There are dumb conspiracy theories that supposedly he wasn't the first one to fly, just the first one to survive.
Given how open the soviet union was in other areas, why are those theories dumb?
There is a conspiracy theory going around that the Russians sent more than one person in space but they kept it under raps in order to avoid the embarrassment that goes with killing one of your pioneers.
He is hinting at the conspiracy theory that Soviets had a previous unsuccessful attempt when the cosmonaut died.

While the USSR was fairly secretive and during its existence, a successful hush-up of a major screw-up was at least possible, we would have learnt about it since 1991.

This was the first human to die in a space flight:

Apparently the USSR told the story as: he kept sending back scientific data up to the last moment.

PS. They definitely hid some of their failures, but I don't think it would have been possible with loss of life involved.

Radio communication monitoring would have gave it away
Why 1991? Even though USSR collapsed, whatever was sealed, is still sealed to this day.
People talk. A lot. And the post-1990 economic situation in Russia was so bad that at least some of the surviving witnesses would be tempted to sell the story.
>Why 1991? Even though USSR collapsed, whatever was sealed, is still sealed to this day.

Some documents are sealed but many were declassified since then.

Even before 1991 many of these theories could be disproved.

James Oberg was uncovering info about phantom or missing cosmonauts in the early 70s, including photos of the original class of Cosmonauts before & after some were airbrushed out. At least 5 men were removed from the photos and they have all been traced (Grigoriy Nelyubov being the most high profile as a member of the "Sochi Six") despite Soviet space officials going to significant lengths to excise these men from their history.

Since the Fall of the Soviet Union we've had revelation after revelation about embarrassing episodes in Soviet history (including previously covered up issues with Vostok 1 during its flight), yet we've discovered nothing about further missing cosmonauts. Of course there could be much better covered up episodes, I'd just expect we'd know a hell of a lot more about them by now.

(As an aside, this info is from Oberg's 1988 book "Uncovering Soviet Disasters" which has _fascinating_ little passages about how much more open the Soviet Union has been "recently" with regards to publicising disasters under Glasnost and how that will continue into the future. So interesting to see as someone born shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union.)

Please, don't feed conspiracists.
I read in _Berlin 1961_ that Gagarin was sent into space on Khrushchev's orders before the engineers wanted him to do, largely so he could feel an advantage over JFK when inviting him to talk about the problems of East Germany (namely mass migration to West Germany.)

The previous cosmonaut apparently cursed Khrushchev as he realised he was going to die in a flight a month before. He burned to death. I don't recall the name or other circumstances but recommend the book.

Well, it turns out the quite entertaining history book I mentioned above has peddled a conspiracy theory. I'm a little surprised, and more than a little hurt, that a respected writer would slip something like this into a work of nonfiction.

So, sorry and thank you HN, I feel less wrong than I was before.

The previous cosmonauts before Gagarin were 2 dogs who couldn't curse Khruschev and they'd returned alive and well.
The first canine cosmonaut was Laika (Sputnik-2, 1957, one month after Sputnik-1). It was a one-way trip though.
Komarov died in 1967, 6 years later, during first test flight of the Soyuz capsule, and cosmonauts considered the test plan rushed. Yuri Gagarin publicly spoke against mismanagement by program director.
In case anyone needs something to add to their long list of things to do when Covid will be over, I highly recommend visiting the museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow (

I had the chance to visit it in 2019 and it's an absolutely fascinating place. With Soyuz capsules that returned from space, Mir module replicas you can go into, asteroids you can touch, a Buran replica and an incredibly detailed walkthrough of the Soviet pioneering work at the dawn of the space race, there is simply no other place like it. Well worth it!

a Buran replica

If you want to see a real Buran, Technik Museum Speyer is nice:

Though, overall, I liked Technik Museum Sinsheim more, which has both a Concorde and a Tupolev TU-144. They are fairly close together, so you can visit both of them in one or two days.

There are urbex people who took footage of a real decaying Buran in Kazakhstan. Illegally, of course.

Simply out of curiosity, have you been to the Kennedy Space Center and how does it compare? As someone who was born in the USSR but hadn’t seen much of it before I left, I am very curious about the differences in attitudes and presentation with things like this.
And then visit - only a short train ride away (by Russian standards) :)
Actually 2 rides: 15-16 km of subway to the Kiyevskaya railway station and 164 km to Kaluga which is the other end of that commute rail.
And to wind down after, drop by the "Museum" of Soviet arcade machines, where you can play all kinds of different arcade games. With trying to figure out whether the machine is broken or you're just using it wrong because you understand none of the description being part of the game :)
And a replica of Sputnik (the first satellite) and Laika (the first space dog, † 3 November 1957 (aged 3), on board Sputnik 2, in Low Earth orbit).

It's probably a shame that I'm Russian and I've never been there. Theoretically I don't even need to wait for covid to be over — life is mostly back to normal already — but going to Moscow just to visit a museum is kinda meh. But I'll visit it the next time I'm in Moscow.
It sounds amazing and reminds me of the Space Museum in Huntsville, AL. It has a Saturn V motor.
Not only the engine - but in Huntsville you can see two Saturn V launch vehicles! A mock up standing, and the other one made of actual stages (not intended to fly, though).

The only other places you can see the Saturn V are the Johnson Space Center and the Kenndy Space Center.

Ohh... does it make sense to see it even if you don't speak Russian?
Absolutely! I don't speak a word of Russian and used their excellent audio guide in English.
Used to be tours going to Baikonur launches. Atleast $5000.
Gotta say the Kennedy Space Center visitor’s center sounds very similar (they have the best Space Shuttle display is think), plus has a full Saturn V. Plus the Washington DC’s Smithsonian Air and Space Center (free... has a spare Skylab space station you can walk into, plus an Apollo-Soyuz display, plus a Moon rock you can literally touch) and the museum at the airport which has an orbiter.

It’d be fun to see these and the Moscow museum back to back to compare.

We are fortunate to live in a world with parallel space programs—that cooperate!

California Science Center is pretty good too, if you are on the left coast.
...In Los Angeles. For Bay Area folks, I can recommend the Chabot Space and Science Center, in Oakland. For Seattle, consider The Museum of Flight.
Endeavour is at CSC, not sure there are any other shuttles over here, unfortunately all the others are on the east coast I think. They should move one to the PNW in my opinion.
Yep, both the Smithsonian Air and Space Center and Steven Udvar-Hazy Center are well worth the visit. They have the Discovery, SR-71, and Enola Gay on display. Oh and the Concorde! [0]


The list of planes across all of them is beyond imagination even when you list them out[0]. Some very interesting planes that were taken out of Germany to keep them out of any other nations hands are there.

The National Air and Space Museum even has the model of Star Trek's Enterprise NCC-1701 used during the show. While obviously not real the effect of the show and its ship are well documented


It was kind of weird to see Gagarin's Communist Party membership document on display at Smithsonian.
In 2018 or 2019, I finally had a layover at Dulles that I was able to make into a long enough stretch that I was finally able to grab a ride and head over to the Steven Udvar-Hazy Center for a few hours.

The Museum of Flight outside Seattle is also well worth the visit and has quite of bit of space hardware in addition to planes. (It's next door to the Boeing factory.)

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