Earthman into Space!It was on the morning of April 12, 1961 that an earthman first journeyed into the unknown void of space. Twenty-seven year old Flight Major Yuri Gagarin, USSR, rode into orbit on the fiery blast of a huge two-stage rocket and blazed his name in the pages of daring adventure.
Major Gagarin's historic flight was the first of six successful space ventures with the Vostok spacecraft. (Vostok is Russian for East.) Vostok I was launched from the secret Russian space center at Baikonur, Russia, and made one orbit of the earth before landing near Smelovaka. The complete flight lasted 108 minutes. On this first Vostok flight, the cosmonaut returned to earth inside the circular reentry capsule. In Vostok 2, Cosmonaut Major Gherman Titov completed 17 orbits and then used the secondary landing system, ejecting from the capsule to make a separate descent by parachute.
Twins into Space!With the success of Vostok 2, Russian space scientists decided to go ahead with a more ambitious experiment. On August 11,1962, Vostok 3 roared into space, to be followed the next day by Vostok 4. As Vostok 3 soared overhead, Vostok 4 rose up to pass within four miles of its twin. No provision was made for matching orbits, and the two spacecraft soon drifted away on their separate courses. At the conclusion of 64 orbits, Vostok 3 descended into the earth's atmosphere, followed by Vostok 4 after its 48th orbit. Vostok 3, piloted by Major Andrian Nikolayov, and Vostok 4, piloted by Lt. Col. Pavel Popovich, ejected to safe landings.
Earthwoman into Space!A second "dual" launching of Vostok spacecraft took place on June 14,1963, when Vostok 5 carried Lt. Col. Valery Bykovsky into orbit to be followed on June 16 by Miss Valentina Tereshkova in Vostok 6. Thus was added a new element to space flight . . . a woman cosmonaut! Miss Tereshkova completed 48 orbits before re-entering to a successful landing using the ejection method. Col. Bykovsky landed shortly afterward, following his 81st earth orbit, and concluded the Vostok series of spaceflights.
The Russian Vostok manned space vehicle is 23 feet long including its final rocket stage. The spherical shaped re-entry capsule is 7 feet 6 inches in diameter. It carries the cosmonaut in his ejection-seat-couch. When launched, the entire capsule was enclosed in a cone-shaped protective covering. This covering was shed before the spacecraft entered orbit and the final rocket stage was jettisoned.
The capsule was attached to an equipment module containing the retrorocket motor. After firing the retrorocket, the equipment module was jettisoned by releasing four steel bands and allowed to drop into the atmosphere. Unlike the American spacecraft, Vostok had no attitude control system which would assist in placing the capsule forward to withstand the searing heat of re-entry, the sphere was designed with the weight off center. As the air pressure built up, the heavier part would slowly swing forward into the correct attitude. When re-entry speed was reduced to 493 mph at an altitude of 22,900 feet, the hatch cover was blown off by explosive bolts. The cosmonaut ejected at 21,400 feet, as the capsule continued to 13,000 feet where its landing parachute was opened automaticly. The cosmonaut himself landedby parachute.