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OFF WE GO!

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The famous phrase pronounced by Yuri Gagarin at the very moment of launching the spacecraft.

Gagarin

These very words were constantly repeated with admiration and pride by people all over the Soviet Union, by children dreaming to explore Space. And, yes, now I join them to pronounce OFF WE GO! I'm grateful for the opportunity to write about the recent 51th anniversary of Space Exploration. That was the Soviet out-breaking step to the new époque.

One who hasn't ever heard a word about Yuri Gagarin is sure to be an ignorant person without any interest in the world wide events. I dare to suggest that such omission is not possible. But some foreign (I mean, non-soviet and non-russian ones) articles cast doubt on the heroism done by Yuri Gagarin. I'm not aiming neither to share with the exact details nor to name those countries but every its word is unacceptable and false. Actually, the pressmen have a strong right to express their own viewpoint and ideas independently from the government and vice versa. I wish my article will help people to remember the world history.

With each year passed, it's hard to penetrate into circumstances and factors led before and after April 12, 1961. The films (documentary or feature ones) were shot, the interviews were given and taken, the equipment was checked and analyzed, the work was examined and criticized... But true secrets have rested untouched and covered with mystery. That was the event of the national importance; the world learned what it was allowed to learn. Still one should remember WHAT kind of time it was and WHAT political atmosphere hung over the world.

The Cold War

I believe it still exists between the Russian Federation and the USA, but the arms race is not so wild and severe as it was before. Besides, those two counties are not so dangerously opposed to each other. 51 years ago as Russia lived with its 14 neighbours under one unique name the Soviet Union, the world observed the strongest Americo-Soviet fight embracing national, political and economical spheres. One opponent couldn't admit its defeat by another. That's how I can explain that sudden and vast exposure in the world mass media hollering the name of Yuri Gagarin and the Soviet Union in different turns.

 
Korolev with the first space dog

Belka & Strelka

SERGEI PAVLOVICH KOROLEV

That was the main soviet weapon, not the missiles.  Placed in the secret list, the brilliant constructer was unknown even in his own country. Under the strict orders, the colleagues were forbidden to mention, utter or whisper his name. Sergei Korolev published his articles and research works under pseudonym “Professor K. Sergeev”. Nobody knew WHO was projecting those great missiles and rockets that could ruin entirely any county in the world (the USA, in particular). Korolev was the desirable person N1 for spies.

That was the man who changed history forever, the man who inspired people around with energy and passion. He had courage to overwhelm the inside and outside pressure combined with incapacity to act in public.

Before Gagarin’s trip

The dogs were the first visitors in Space. They were examined and trained under Korolev’s order. The mongrels were stronger and healthier than the pure-breds. At first, the tragic accidents happened, the dogs died, technique wasn’t perfect  - but then came success. Two dogs, Belka and Strelka, were sent to Space and returned alive. The dream came closer... Afterwards, it was time for a dummy called Ivan Ivanovich, the dogs: Laika (died tragically), Chernushka (meaning “blacky”), Zvezdochka (that is “a small star”). Two last flights were perfect, and in 3 weeks the man witnessed our Planet outside.

The first man in Space

His broad smile was familiar to every man; he became a symbol of the Soviet Union, a symbol of success and power. Yuri Gagarin was a 27-years-old Soviet Air Force pilot who spent 108 minutes in Space. Vostok 1 was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome (the territory of Kazakhstan) with the special rocket at 9. 07 a.m. Moscow time. Several hours later Gagarin became the national hero and the favourite.

Behind the scenes.

Gagarin’s relatives couldn’t imagine the extreme danger of that mission. Everything was under secret. 2 days before the great date he wrote the letter to his wife telling her to be strong and not to grieve for him. Gagarin had no doubt about technical equipment but everything could happen. He asked his wife to raise their children full of dignity and patriotism, to make them noble and honest. He loved his family with all his heart. The letter was held by the headquarters and was given to Gagarin’s family after the terrible air accident in 1968. What has happened then is still unknown. There are many possible and impossible suppositions concerning the accident. Nevertheless, Gagarin is always in our mind.

Termonology

Space exploration stated particular Russian words as international.

  • VOSTOK – the legendary spacecraft’s name that literary means “East”, contrasted with West – Europe and America.
  • COSMONAUT – a spaceman
  • COSMODROME – space launching site
  • SPUTNIK - Earth satellite, meaning also “travelling companion”. The first artificial Earth satellite or Sputnik was launched on October 4, 1957.


Gagarin & Koroloev

One more fact

Before the launching, the equipment failed and Korolev ordered the engineers to repair the spacecraft with Gagarin inside. They heard him singing a song. Afterwards, having returned to the Earth as a hero, Gagarin commented the scene to the colleagues; he sang on purpose to soothe the tension and gave the engineers a chance to settle the things. That proves the nature of Yuri Gagarin: the man of self-control and wisdom.

There is no need to precise the role that space mission played for both the Soviet Union and the USA. It's surprising that people did work in such intense conditions: a dangerous game, each minute is worth achieving the results, an absolute secrecy and the enemy close on your heels...

Those times can truly be called the discovery époque.

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