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Vostok Gallery


One of the signs accompanying the Vostok spacecraft's ejection seat. It reads

Gagarin's Landing

The Big Lie

The International Aeronautical Federation had a strict rule - a pilot setting a new world aviation record had to land in his craft. The Soviet leadership worried that Gagarin's ejection from Vostok 1 might deprive them of their record, so they lied to the world - they reported that Gagarin had landed in his capsule.

According to the Soviets, only Gagarin landed in his Vostok - cosmonauts Titov (Vostok 2), Nikolayev (Vostok 3), Popovich (Vostok 4), Bykovsky (Vostok 5), and Tereskova (Vostok 6) all ejected. This led Western experts to suspect that Gagarin had also ejected. The Soviets reluctantly confirmed this during the 1970s, at last giving the world a true picture of the historic first manned spaceflight.

What Really Happened

On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin in Vostok 1 became the first human being to orbit Earth. The next day, he told a special State Commission about his 108-minute flight. He spoke of ejecting from the capsule during descent to Earth.

"When the g-loads came to a complete halt, which apparently coincided with going through the sound barrier, you could hear the air whistling [past the falling capsule] ... I was waiting to eject. At that moment, at an altitude of about 7000 meters ... there was a loud [bang], and I was ejected. I began to descend on the main parachute. I was again turned toward the Volga [River]. In parachute training, we had jumped many times right over this same spot ... I looked the area over, and I could see where the [Vostok capsule] had landed. There was a white parachute, and next to it the scorched, black sphere.

... I saw the ground coming. My feet hit with a "plunk." The field was well plowed, and very soft ... I didn't even feel the landing ... I looked myself over - I was all in one piece. That meant I was alive and well.

... I went up a knoll and saw a woman and a little girl coming toward me ... I saw the woman slow her pace, and the little girl broke away ... I then began to wave my arms and yell, "I'm one of yours, a Soviet, don't be afraid ..." It's hard to walk in a space suit, but I was doing it anyway ... I went up to her and said that I was a Soviet and that I had come from space."

Sign accompanying Vostok ejection seat at Kansas Cosmosphere
Time picture taken Fri Apr 15 17:00:38 2016
Location picture taken Early Spaceflight Gallery
Hall of Space
Kansas Cosmosphere
Hutchinson, KS
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