Sunday, April 13, 2008


Meesha over at Kansas City with the Russian Accent reminded me in a recent post that April 12 was Cosmonautics Day. The 47th anniversary of the flight of Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin.

The first human to strap himself on top of an ICBM (in the same place the nuke was supposed to go), fly into space, orbit the earth, and come back home.

Props to Comrade Yuri and Vostok 1.

The flight profile of Vostok 1 was a bit controversial and ballsy as hell.

He rockets into space strapped into his Vostok spacecraft propelled by an R-7 ICBM.

After orbiting the earth once on a completely ballistic trajectory, he reenters the atmosphere. After reentry, he ejects from the Vostok on his rocket powered ejection seat.

After achieving sufficient seperation from the Vostok, Gagarin releases himself from the enormous ejection seat, triggers his own personal parachute, and lands on his own two feet in Mother Russia.

That, is some serious fucking hero shit. That is the ultimate E-Ticket Ride.

It was controversial because

"Gagarin ejected after re-entry and descended under his own parachute, as was planned. However for many years the Soviet Union denied this, because the flight would not have been recognized for various FAI world records unless the pilot had accompanied his craft to a landing."

FAI standards aside, this guy did it. He was the first. And he did it with more balls and panache than anyone since.

Plus, this was back in the days when our shit just kept blowing up.

It wasn't until about 3 weeks later, on May 5, 1961, that we managed to get Alan Shepard into a suborbital flight aboard Mercury 3.

Shortly after that, JFK announced we were going to the moon "in this decade".

WTF?!? How the hell are we gonna do that?

When our best and most brilliant ex-Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun was asked by a reporter "When we get to the moon, what will we find there?", he replied "At this rate, empty vodka bottles."

While we keep dicking around with new spacecraft designs and new missions, the Russions just keep cranking out incredibly reliable Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and keep going to space, thank you very much.

I have IMMENSE respect for the Russian space program. They were first, they are reliable, they are consistent and they are experienced.


meesha.v said...

Russians didn't really make newsreels about their failures. They only announced their achievements after they were sure it was a success. They did PR before the term even existed.

Xavier Onassis said...

True. And they had some incredible failures.

But blowing up rockets is just the ante to get in the game.

I tried to find a youtube clip of the cosmonaut in "Armegeddon" hammering away on a faulty piece of equipment yelling "THIS IS HOW YOU FIX THINGS ON RUSSIAM SPACE STATION!"

But I couldn't find it.