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60 years ago, Gagarin flew into space: a special video from Google and eyewitness memories

On April 12, Google released a touching video dedicated to Cosmonautics Day. It contains an appeal to Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Its flight took place exactly 60 years ago.

Photo: Shutterstock

In the video entitled “A Message to Yuri Gagarin” astronauts, scientists, directors, students, writers turned to Yuri Gagarin and told what mankind has managed to achieve thanks to his flight into space.

“60 years ago the first man went into space - Yuri Gagarin. His flight continues to inspire space explorers to this day. This is a message from people from all over the world especially for Yuri Alekseevich. In it, we tell him about those amazing things that we discovered in space during this time - about what became possible thanks to him, ”- said in the description of the video.

"Russian Roulette": how Gagarin's flight was prepared

Yuri Gagarin's flight into space on April 12, 1961 was the victory of the Soviet Union in the space race with the United States. His return to Earth was a triumph, which was impossible to dispute, writes Air force.

Gagarin performed an act that required incredible courage and courage from a person. He went into space, which was then almost unknown, on a ship without a rescue system, on a rocket, which had as many accidents as there were successful launches. A very small and very simple spacecraft flew around the Earth, launched by a ballistic rocket, and the astronaut sitting in it could hardly influence anything.

The flight task itself, issued by the state commission on April 8, 1961, consisted of the repeated word “check”: “Perform a one-turn flight around the Earth at an altitude of 180-230 kilometers for 1 hour 30 minutes with landing in a given area. The purpose of the flight is to check the possibility of a person staying in space on a specially equipped spacecraft, to check the equipment of the spacecraft in flight, to check the connection between the spacecraft and the Earth, to make sure that the means of landing the spacecraft and the cosmonaut are reliable ”.

The Vostok launch vehicle, on which the spacecraft of the same name was installed, was developed on the basis of the R-7 rocket, a two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile, which made its maiden flight in August 1957. In the same year, with its help, the first artificial Earth satellite was launched. In 1960, the R-7 was adopted by the strategic missile forces.

The design of the R-7 turned out to be very successful - missiles of this family are still the only missiles in Russia for manned space flights. This is a completely reliable space vehicle - outdated, but guaranteeing the delivery of the spacecraft into orbit.

However, in 1961, things were quite different.

“If we proceed from modern standards for the reliability of launch vehicles, then by April 1961 we had no grounds for optimism. Even for commercial launches of unmanned assault rifles, in particular, communications satellites, in the 1980s, according to international standards, it was supposed to use carriers that had at least eight successful launches in a row, ”wrote Boris Chertok in the book“ Rockets and People ”.

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“Of the five satellite ships launched in 1960 to test systems, four took off. Of these four, three went into orbit, and two landed. Of the two returned, only one landed normally! It was absolutely necessary to have two or three more successful unmanned [launches] before a man was launched, ”he wrote.

Expert, head of the Institute for Space Policy, Ivan Moiseev, said that the R-7 rocket actually did not have an emergency rescue system. And the flight was like a Russian roulette - the chances of success were 50-50.

Before the flight, three TASS reports were prepared: one "successful", which was transmitted after the flight, the second that the Soviet cosmonaut sat outside the USSR and needed help or rescue, and the third, which reported his death.

Almost perfect

On April 12, 1961, during Gagarin's flight, the rocket performed almost perfectly well. But there are no trifles in space technology - this “almost” as a result could cost Gagarin his life.

At the last stage, the missile control system, which obeyed radio signals from the Earth, did not respond to the signal, and before the automatic duplicating radio communication worked, Vostok rose several tens of kilometers higher with Gagarin. TThis scenario was not thought out in advance. “Vostok” was designed in such a way as to return back even if the braking system failed during deorbiting - if the ship had not orientated itself upon entering the atmosphere and had not turned on the braking engines, it would have returned anyway, decelerating naturally. But after five to seven days.

The ship's life support system could function for 10 days, but the designers assumed that the orbit would be calculated. According to Chertok, if the ship's attitude control system had failed before landing or another accident had occurred, the Vostok would have landed 15-20 days later. But Gagarin did not have them in stock.

As a result, Vostok landed with almost no problems. This “almost” also made the first astronaut nervous. After turning off the braking engine, the ship began to rotate around both its axes at a speed of about 30 degrees per second. Gagarin already could not do anything in such a situation. Subsequently, it turned out that the instrument compartment had not separated from the descent vehicle. Fortunately, the automatics disconnected it after some time, and the ball of the descent vehicle stabilized.

"Raw" ship

The fact that the first flight took place not without emergency situations is not surprising - the ship was rather "raw".

Firstly, the soft landing system was not implemented in it, as a result of which it was necessary to use ejection and a separate descent with the astronaut's parachute. The fact that Gagarin, having actually been in space, did not overcome the last kilometers to the ground in a ship, was subsequently carefully concealed.

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At times, changes had to be made to the ship's design at the very last moment. When before the flight, Gagarin was weighed in a spacesuit, they found out that he weighs several kilograms more than the designers expected. The idea of ​​replacing him with a lighter Titov was not accepted - since January 1961, Gagarin was approved in all documents as the future first cosmonaut.

“Korolyov sent engineers to cut off excess cables from the ship at night. Basically, this system of emergency detonation was cut off - explosives, of course, were not on the manned ship, but the system itself remained, ”the writer says.

At the very last moment before the launch, when the cosmonaut was already in the spacecraft, the automatics suddenly issued a message about a leaky closed hatch. Before the flight, literally in a few tens of minutes, the installers opened 30 locks, checked the hatch for leaks, found faulty contacts that gave a false signal, and repaired them.

How Gagarin landed

Having made a revolution around the Earth in 108 minutes, at 10:55 am cosmonaut Yu.A. Gagarin landed in a potato field in the Saratov region. The first to see him was the forester's wife with her five-year-old granddaughter, who were planting potatoes in the field. The girl has grown up, but she remembers that day in detail. How it was she told Air force.

While planting potatoes, at some point the girl turned around in the field and saw “something orange, beautiful, it’s not clear what”. According to Rita Nurskanova, Gagarin himself approached her and her grandmother, asked her grandmother to unbutton his helmet.

“His face opened and he immediately began to smile,” Rita recalls.

When asked where he came from, Gagarin replied: "I am from heaven."

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They went to the cockpit. Soon the collective farmers from the fields also ran there. The girl saw that Gagarin was lying on the field and the spacesuit was being removed from him. Then a helicopter flew in and was taken away. So Rita herself - the girl who saw all this - became part of the story.

She says that Gagarin wrote letters to her family, grandmother and mother answered, and the girl carried these letters to school, believing that as many people as possible should find out about this. The letters were read by the whole school.

She is still very proud that the first Soviet cosmonaut descended on their field.

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