Stunning details of the space flight of Yuri Gagarin declassified decades later

In case, if the first Soviet cosmonaut went mad in orbit, provided the locking connection, automatic closure of the suit and fixing the chair. A spacecraft equipped with a cipher-lock… Insure in all respects — after all, we were the first! The space industry who worked with Korolev and Gagarin, told us about the unknown parts of the Soviet victories.

Yuri Gagarin and German Titov in the bus on the way to the start. Photo from the archive of Vladimir Yaropolov.

57 years since the first manned flight into space on 12 April celebrates humanity. Our cosmonautics Day long was the world. And, it would seem that there is no one theme, no facts associated with that great time that we hadn’t heard. But it is not. Still living veterans of cosmonautics, we will not cease to reveal new.

One of these people — doctor of technical Sciences, Professor, honored worker of science of the Russian Federation chief researcher of the Center of cosmonaut training. Yuri Gagarin Vladimir Yaropolov.


Lieutenant Yaropolov. So he arrived at the landfill in 1959. Photo from the archive of Vladimir Yaropolov.

“I finished school with the help… of a gold medal”

— Vladimir Ilyich, tell us a little about yourself. How is it that you, a 23-year-old boy, in 1959, were directed immediately after graduating from the Military Academy to the secret training ground of the country?

— To the Academy when I graduated from high school in his native Russia with the help… on awarding a gold medal. Was in such a hurry to enter the Academy (where the exams started very early) that the award of the medal did not wait.

In the period of service on the Baikonur launch site since the end of 1959 to the end of 1965, I worked in direct contact with Sergey Pavlovich Korolev, his deputies, having participated in more than 200 runs, our famous R-7 rocket. In total I served at Baikonur 13 years.

By the way, is our training ground for the first time was called not Baikonur, and Scientific-research test range No. 5 of the Ministry of defence. Baikonur, it was renamed after Gagarin’s flight — it was necessary to designate where it started. The name was transferred from the village of Baikonur, there is a considerable distance from the actual launch pad. There in the early years there was about a spaceport with a camouflage buildings to disorient potential enemy.

When I arrived at the true ground, immediately fell to the test of our first Intercontinental ballistic missiles ICBMs. As time went on her testing and subsequent commissioning into service. This was the only Intercontinental ballistic missile, which we threatened the Americans during the Cuban missile crisis. (Laughs.)

Many went not too smoothly, the rocket that liked to explode 40 seconds after starting… But after each failed start-up we threw forces at eliminating the causes and each head responsible for your area activities. I participated in the development of the emergency undermining the warhead missiles, which was intended to block the explosion of the warhead if it suddenly decided to fall not where it should be.

— How many times used to undermine?

— Never had to.

Before the start of “Vostok” over the space swept by destroying the meteor

— In parallel with tests of ICBMs we launched the first spacecraft in the same R-7, — said Vladimir Ilyich. — I remember my first launch of a civilian spacecraft E3 for photographing the back side of the moon, who was appointed on 16 April 1960. By the time the first flyby and photographing has been completed, but scientists wanted to produce a new, more detailed footage.

However, the night run ended in failure when the rocket left the launching system, she broke one of the four blocks, there was a bias thrust, and it remains directed vertically, fly sideways.

First, passing over the launch system, the rocket put down farm maintenance. Then went on shaving the flight directly to the measuring point, which was one kilometer away from the starting position (where she lost another marginalia). Then, like a destructive meteorite, went to residential buildings, swept over the dining room, barracks, blowing where glass from the Windows, where the doors. In the end, went to the Assembly and testing housing (Micah), which tested missiles and spacecraft.

The rocket completely exploded a few dozen meters from him. When we came out of the bunker, our eyes appeared sad picture: the starting area is lit, the measuring point is illuminated, glass and doors in ATF., but because of the explosion at the office building away from the housing one wall. “My God, what have we done!” — the only thing I could say.

Just at this time came to us the first developmental unit of the new manned spacecraft “Vostok”, it was called 1 KP (which means “simple ship”). I was lucky enough to participate in the testing of the Vostok spacecraft is not an ordinary test, but as the head of the complex tests of the ship from the spaceport. Here is then it was young — we were entrusted with the most responsible types of work. And we tried not to bring.

A vivid example can say to us leader was Sergei Pavlovich Korolev. He was an amazing leader. Decided to send a man into space in 1958, and two years later the ship was ready, a year later soared into the sky with Yuri Gagarin. Although the conditions for a training run at times left much to be desired.


Tsvetkov M., Shmelev V. V., Netrac B. E., Kamenev, V. V., Yaropolov V., Soldatov E. A. the staff of the Department of integrated tests of the spacecraft under the leadership of V. Yaropolova (second from right) in search of “Bob”. “Bob” is slang for the test is called a fault detected in space technology. Photo from the archive of Vladimir Yaropolov.

Here, for example, as we prepared the tests of the first ship. MICK, littered with frames and glass after the explosion of the rocket with the lunar satellite, we cleaned, to work in was difficult — there was a lot of dust. In the end, I decided to pull over treated pad fabric from the parachute under her and experienced the “East”. At the time the tests were conducted only at Baikonur (on the enterprise developer, as is done now, equipment not tested). Despite all the difficulties, the ship for flight prepared, starting new farms, gas and communications cables restored for a month (!) and on may 15 launched.

— What was the first “Vostok”?

– It should be noted that with the launch of the first developmental apparatus the task was not part of his landing — the main thing was to see how it will behave in flight. 1 KP did not have life-support systems, landing systems and thermal protection.

During the flight due to a malfunction of the infrared vertical (a device for precise orientation on the Ground. — Ed.) the vehicle is the brake booster got the momentum moved to a higher orbit height 690 km and as a result, after the completion and separation of the instrument compartment and the lander he was flying in space longer than planned. The instrument section has been functioning in orbit for 2.5 years, and the lander — 5.5 years.

The developers of the ship was horrified when I imagined that in such a situation can prove to be an astronaut. The results of this flight in the system of automatic orientation of the ship added a backup system of solar orientation and introduced the sensor to enable the brake motor installation only when the correct orientation of the ship. But in orbit, which was deduced the spaceship “Vostok” was designed so that the ship could have 10 days to return to Earth due to the braking in the dense layers of the atmosphere. That was the fallback descent in case of failure of the braking of the propulsion system.

As a failed catapult saved Ginny and Alf

28 July 1960 launches of the Vostok spacecraft with dogs on Board (product called To 1). Neither scientists nor doctors knew then, what happens in space with a living organism. They were pioneers who were moving forward based on the experience of trial and error.

I remember how he died in the explosion of the propulsion system of the rocket in the 38th second of the flight the Fox and the gull — continues Vladimir Ilyich — the effects of the emergency detonation of a third product with Pchelka and Mushka on Board (due to the failure of the stabilization system of the vehicle during the braking operation of the propulsion system, the descent trajectory was such that he could land outside the territory of the Soviet Union, which was unacceptable). In space exploded then 32 kg of TNT, the animals, of course, did not survive.

Sergey Pavlovich, according to many of his colleagues, was very upset every bad start, but not pounded to smithereens — everyone knew that going through the unknown and anything can happen. As designers and engineers, with a feeling of great trust and responsibility, did not sleep for several nights, but found causes of malfunction. New devices, launched from Baikonur, was more perfect than the previous one.

So they still achieved the successful return of the first living beings on Earth. It was a well-known heroine Belka and Strelka, as well as starting on the last ship modification 1 To the Ginny and alpha.

With them, by the way, worked saying “there would be No happiness, Yes the misfortune has helped”. Lander with Ginny and alpha landed in an unplanned district of the Krasnoyarsk territory. The animals were rescued due to the fact that set off the ejection system and they were in the descent module, or in 40-degree cold would have frozen.


The launch of the spacecraft “Vostok”. Photo from the archive of Vladimir Yaropolov.

The draw for the Queen and not only

After the dogs began to run into space dummies. With them after Gagarin’s flight was linked to an interesting story. In the American press there were articles which said that to Yuri the Russian has sent into space people. Supposedly their radio operators had intercepted conversations of the astronauts with the Earth.

We attribute this only to the fact that during the flight our mannequins (they were called by Ivan Ivanovic) they really “talked” human voices, says Yaropolov. In the mouths of speakers were mounted, which was fed the signal from the onboard tape recorder. The reproduction of speech was necessary for testing the communication with the mission control Center.

In General, the mannequins were so life-like people that one day, the king himself has confused them with members Micke, and even gave a dressing down for Smoking… at a test site.

During testing of the vehicle on the ground we didn’t put the dummy in the chair of the astronaut, the lander, it was easier to check out all system, when he just sat in the chair next to the ship. Well, the people mocked them: it will be put, putting Ivan Ivanovich legs, a cigarette will stick, and even a book on his knees put.

Queens came one day and took the mannequin for a living person, imposingly situated in the chair. What happened! “How is it? That is, the testers on the test site instead of read books?!” When it became clear that before him the dummy, he laughed.

“Scorpion 4” — secret call sign of the chief designer

— In General, the king was very strict with you?

– Sergei Pavlovich irreconcilable attitude to the unfair performance of their duties the staff members of the testing team. One day during the inspection, manned space vehicle ready to launch, a representative of the chief designer of the ejection seat, the cosmonaut discovered the freely hanging tether and decided to crop it. As it turned out, it was part of the parachute system of the astronaut. As a result, had to perform a large amount of work on starting position on elimination of emergency situation.

So when it came to Queens, he summoned the culprit of this incident and the inherent stiffness gave him the dressing using a favorite phrase: “Get out of here the sleepers to Moscow itself, and that I’m not seen around here!”. It then didn’t really see.

I must say that the king could make distributions (on the range they were called “pticami”) that no one and never had the desire to get under the press. As he wrote then, media: “people of the head drawn into the shoulders, when the king “expressed” our dissatisfaction”.

In those days there was another great expert on the “vtykal” — General Mrykhin, who often visited at the site by the nature of their service, since then held the position of first Deputy head of the Main Directorate of missile weapons (GURVO) strategic Missile forces. On the ground have even introduced reference unit of measure “sticking” — “one mryk”. The “slap on the wrist” from his superiors and was considered to be one of the “micromega”. But the unit of “sticking” to the Queen size in the “one king” was equivalent on the ground to one of the “megarich”.

Fear of the Queen led to the birth of commands such as “Scorpion 4”, which is a network of the notification was passed to the duty management when he learned about the approach of the chief designer to the Assembly and testing building.

The story of this team is. While we all work in strict secrecy. And when near the landfill of a passenger train or flying civilian aircraft, which could be representatives of foreign States with the means of intercept, the landfill was declared radio silence commands alert “Scorpio-1 And Scorpio-2” and “Scorpion 3” depending on the level of secrecy needed. For example, when receiving a command “Scorpion 3” is fully prohibited the airing.

Of course, the appearance of the Queen no effect on the airing of radio equipment is not provided, but when entering the command “Scorpio 4” everyone knew that the king from minute to minute here. (Laughs.)

For all its rigidity in relation to the work, he was very human in life. We had the captain at the spaceport, his little daughter one leg was longer than the other. He fought, as if this defect fix. When I found out that there is such a possibility, went to Sergei Pavlovich and asked for help. Korolev got what you need. And a few days calling him from Moscow, explains where he wants to drive, who to contact etc. “Yes, — he adds — I have ordered you with my daughter and wife put on my plane and taken to Moscow.”


Yuri Gagarin in the plane after returning to Earth. Photo from the archive of Vladimir Yaropolov.

— Back to the mannequins. Launches with them in March 1961 was successful?

— In General, Yes. There was only one defect that we could not eliminate: the lander at the end of the work could not be separated from the instrument compartment, holding a bunch of cables. In the end, the design is highly twisted, giving astronauts additional conditional overload. Despite the fact that the lander in the end, finally freed from the additional load (cables burned during the passage of the dense layers of the atmosphere), the problem remained unsolved.

— Yuri Gagarin it was known?

— I do not know about.

Why ship Gagarin was a cipher-lock

How will the first flight of man into space that he will feel there, hundreds of kilometers from the Earth, nobody knew.

– What did I responsible for medical support of cosmonaut Colonel Vladimir Yazdovsky, — says Vladimir Ilyich. — “I know nothing,’ he answered. — It’s possible that he’d go crazy there.” This scenario was taken seriously. But because the ship was preparing automated as much as possible.

We had one fellow with the Royal firm, which emphasized high automation level: “If I was promised an apartment in Moscow, I would agree to fly instead of Gagarin: sat, ready one minute lost consciousness and woke up in the Kremlin hospital”. But jokes jokes, and in-flight loss of consciousness and the loss of adequacy of perception of the events was threatened with serious problems.

If the astronaut suddenly would have gone crazy and started talking horrible, provision was made for locking connection with the Earth. In the event of inadequate action on his part was an automatic closure of the suit and fixing of the astronaut in the chair.

Also avoid the implementation of incorrect actions on the part of an astronaut, for example landing on the territory of our “sworn friends” on Board was a cipher-lock, locking system orientation of the ship. If necessary, manual control of the ship (assuming that the astronaut is in his mind) cipher code unlock could tell Gagarin from the Earth. It was only four people who know it: it is a leading designer, Oleg Ivanovsky, Nikolai Kamanin, who led the selection and preparation of the first Soviet cosmonauts, the king and the Chairman of the state Commission Konstantin Rudnev.

— Were there any surprises before the start?

— At the last moment it was discovered that in the suit no bright markings. And that after landing Yuri was not a spy (all was the memorable incident with the downed in 1960 an American pilot Powers), already worn on Gagarin’s helmet with red paint was the inscription: “USSR”.

When cosmonaut number one was seated in the vehicle, I was in the command bunker. Remember that once there, the recorder was writing the parameters of the body of Gagarin. I was very struck by the fact that his pulse is almost unchanged and amounted to 64 beats per minute. Then the first cosmonaut of the Earth, humming a song, blows the Russian folk that also spoke about the lack of excitement.

But heart or sedatives after a certain period of time regularly put under the language of chief designer. In 9 hours 30 minutes Sergei Pavlovich asked Gagarin’s health. He replied that everything is in order.

Before the start was about 80 minutes, and then something unexpected happened: while closing the hatch of the ship one of the three sensors did not work, that could indicate a leak in the hatch. What to do? To cancel the start of the first man in space? Korolev decides to re-open the hatch and tighten each of the 30 locks again. While those negotiations until the decision was made, the whole work to the point of divergence of farms stayed about 30 minutes. But the installers kept within 20 minutes, and all sensors showed complete closure of the hatch. Everybody involved got then thanks.

Surprisingly, even when the hatch is opened, the pulse Gagarin never went up. Sergei Pavlovich said to him: “Now we are going to open the door, but don’t worry, it is so necessary, all right,” and the astronaut believed him.

The launch took place, and soon there was a new problem — lost connection to “East”. Why do not load the measuring point in Kolpashevo, located in the Tomsk region.

The Queen was in a state of shock, he began to twitch the muscles on the face, the voice broke, he experienced a lack of communication: with Gagarin in these few moments could happen anywhere. Then the connection is recovered, Yury Alekseevich has told that his ship went into orbit.

The next incident was even more unpleasant.

When everyone who was responsible for the launch, communication and mission, went in high spirits in anticipation of the successful completion of the mission, “preseminar”, pale and focused, still nervous.

And no wonder he was worried. During the descent from orbit had been delayed off the engine brake and separation of the descent module from the instrument compartment. In the end, the ship is badly spun. Vostok with Gagarin made one revolution every 12 seconds.

At a height of about 7 thousand meters was the shooting of the cover main hatch of the lander. Following this, the bailout of the astronaut. The Gagarin began to descend on the main parachute.

And then suddenly there is an opening of the container of the reserve parachute, which first hung, not filled with air. However, when passing clouds it was a little inflated, he revealed, was filled up, and then Gagarin went down on two parachutes. It was very dangerous because the reserve parachute getting inside the core blocked the airflow for the main parachute. The main parachute started to emerge, and a man flying down would have great acceleration. Fortunately for Gagarin, the canopy of the reserve parachute does not enter inside the main dome.


Photo from the archive of Vladimir Yaropolov.

Due to the fact that initially the engine is flawed in just one second landing happened far away from the planned destination, Gagarin almost landed on the drifting ice on the Volga. Besides, he did not immediately open the valve, which supply breathing air. Gagarin landed with the closed visor of the suit and only on earth was able to open it. Difficulty opening valve breathing in the air arose from the fact that while dressing this valve came under the telltale orange shell suit.

“No one was supposed to see”

— Tell me about your relationship with the astronauts. You were familiar with everyone was sent into orbit?

We know they have — no. When members of the first squad brought to the hall Mick to explore the ship, all the testers were removed. The installation was this: nobody was supposed to see, nobody was supposed to know the test in the face that the enemy took us over.

When I was done shooting the same “East” for Newspapers and television, we were again kicked out and they moved people with no relationship to the test ships, they put on their white coats, and they pretended to work in the Assembly and testing facility.

The play, however, with real actors, was documentary footage from the bunker at the time of the launch of Yuri. Remember when Queens of the radio admonishes Gagarin and utters the catchphrase “let’s Go!”? We show that in the bunker to sit Korolev, his Deputy Voskresenskiy is at the periscope, the third — Boris Chikunov for the remote control of the launch vehicle, turn the key to start… I also was in this solemn moment in the bunker.


Vladimir Yaropolov. Photo from the archive of Vladimir Yaropolov.

In fact, when there was a launch, we were Packed. The Queens have always gathered all the professionals in the difficult situations they have someone to consult. But for a large television audience all decided not to show.

In the same way and filmed the meeting of the state Commission before the flight, where he announced the primary and backup astronauts, and discussed all problems, status. The real work of the Commission has not been removed, then the next day they gathered the participants and conducted a ceremonial meeting for the history.

The secrecy was such that Sergei Pavlovich is not allowed even on the podium of the Kremlin, when there was a demonstration dedicated to Gagarin’s flight! With us it is their feelings not shared, but people close to him said he experienced this fact.

The launch of the first man in space was a step into the unknown. Years later experts on the reliability of calculated the true probability of a successful outcome of the flight of Yuri Gagarin and got… 46 percent.

The courage and heroism of the astronaut, the selfless work of designers, engineers, doctors gave humanity very valuable information: it could be sure that man can exist in space and return to a normal life on Earth.

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