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What Yuri Gagarin Saw
April 11, 2011 5:07 PM   Subscribe

First Orbit. "On 12th April 2011 it will be 50 years to the day since Yuri Gagarin climbed into his space ship and was launched into space. It took him just 108 minutes to orbit Earth and he returned as the World's very first space man. To mark this historic flight we have teamed up with the astronauts onboard the International Space Station to film a new view of what Yuri would have seen as he travelled around the planet. Weaving these new views together with historic voice recordings from Yuri's flight and an original score by composer Philip Sheppard, we have created a spellbinding film to share with people around the World on this historic anniversary."

"First Orbit will have its planet-wide premiere from 7.07am British Summer Time (6.07am GMT) youtube.com/firstorbit and on over 600 screens around the world in 60 countries. In the UK the BBC will screen it on their giant city centre screens across the country at exactly the same time as Gagarin made his flight 50 years ago – 07:07 BST on 12 April."
posted by homunculus (32 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
aaargh, I miss my Gagarin portrait/shrine/altar-wall now. Would have made a great place to toast the man. Was always impressed by the fact that from what I could tell by old clips as a kid, cosmonauts land on land and are shoved a bottle of vodka in their hands by the welcoming committee.

Lovely music in that film.
posted by dabitch at 5:20 PM on April 11, 2011


what is the opposite of a dot in a mefi thread?

~=O> .:*

too fussy, but think of it as ascii art for 'ad astra!'
posted by mwhybark at 5:20 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


~=O> .:*

Works for me, mwhybark.

Anyone else cynically wonder how long it'll be until we abandon the ISS? For good reasons, of course, since any money spent on space is stuffed into rockets like so much toilet paper and then fired off never to be seen again, and there's so many better used for it...
posted by JB71 at 5:23 PM on April 11, 2011


"uses". Dammit.
posted by JB71 at 5:25 PM on April 11, 2011


~=O> .:*

This ascii art reminds me of Pelevin's description of Sputnik as "the four-tailed spermatozoon of a future that would never arrive."
posted by nasreddin at 5:30 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


since any money spent on space is stuffed into rockets like so much toilet paper and then fired off never to be seen again

Where do imagine astronauts cash their paychecks?
posted by Knappster at 5:42 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know what newscaster is speaking at around 6:00? Sounds like a Westerner...

Would they be shitting their pants at the news that the Soviet Union had launched a man in to space, or would there be an awestruck attitude?
posted by codacorolla at 5:47 PM on April 11, 2011


since any money spent on space is stuffed into rockets like so much toilet paper and then fired off never to be seen again

I disagree absolutely with this statement. Money spent on space is money spent on the morale of the entire species, amongst scores of other benefits (technology, utility, science, etc). I cannot think of a better for of it.

I'm sorry that you're so damn cynical and bitter that you think it's being pissed away, but just knowing humans are up there gives me a warm fuzzy no matter how shitty everything else gets.
posted by Fuka at 5:59 PM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry that you're so damn cynical and bitter that you think it's being pissed away, but just knowing humans are up there gives me a warm fuzzy no matter how shitty everything else gets.


Of all the styles of argument one encounters on MeFi, the one that goes "if you disagree with me, you're just a bitter cynical hipster who doesn't believe in the magic and rainbows of sincerity" is by far the most annoying.
posted by nasreddin at 6:06 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of all the styles of argument one encounters on MeFi, the one that goes "if you disagree with me, you're just a bitter cynical hipster who doesn't believe in the magic and rainbows of sincerity" is by far the most annoying.

Lo, the meta-cynicalarity is nigh!
Just teasing, nasreddin.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:31 PM on April 11, 2011


Anyway, it's all going to be privatized soon. Mission to Mars, brought to you by Mars®
posted by stargell at 6:33 PM on April 11, 2011


The Charmin® Mission to Clean Up Uranus
posted by stargell at 6:35 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Back on topic, Gagarin was probably the first Russian I'd ever heard of—one of the "good" Russians, I guess they would have called him.
posted by stargell at 6:37 PM on April 11, 2011


I'm working on a journal article about a Soviet computer scientist, and I happened to find this letter to him written right after Gagarin's launch. You can just tell how happy they are about the flight.
posted by nasreddin at 6:41 PM on April 11, 2011


(er, here's page 2)
posted by nasreddin at 6:42 PM on April 11, 2011


Actually, Nasreddin and Fuka and Knappster - I KNOW that money isn't wasted. But for decades I've heard people justifying their opposition to the space program through idiotic statements about how that money is wasted, until it seems like they think that all the money IS being tightly packed and shoved into the sun, nevermore to be seen.

It's enough to make you tear your hair out at the sheer stupidity of it.

But I really do wonder how long it'll be until someone in either the NASA hierarchy or some bozo in Congress decides that the money that NASA has can best be used elsewhere to buy votes, and we see the defunding and destruction commence. Heck, we've lost the Shuttle (and boy, was I ever glad to see THAT come around, as iffy as it was, after the Moon shots were cancelled and ended...) and what've we got? Orion-Constellation, and Ghu knows if we'll ever see THAT thing launched again.

At least we've got Musk, and SpaceX with the Falcon rockets and Dragon series capsules, and Bigelow's inflatable habitats... It kind of makes you wonder what they could do with a hundredth of NASA's budget per year, guaranteed for a decade...
posted by JB71 at 6:58 PM on April 11, 2011


Trivia: Yuri didn't land in the craft, he parachuted out. That was intended, the Vostok 1 had no way of landing and keeping a person alive, so out he went. The Soviets kept that a secret for years.

In hindsight, the Amercians could have been first in space (but not orbit) in March, but were being extra cautious. Oops.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:12 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Three from James Oberg's April 2011 IEEE Spectrum article, Twenty Myths About Gagarin's Spaceflight:
7. Gagarin was preceded in space by a number of earlier cosmonauts, who were all killed.

Moscow kept its program so secret, and issued so many clumsy lies about it, that almost anything was possible, especially if it eased the bruised egos of Americans tired of getting beaten in the space race. But in hindsight, not a single "secret cosmonaut" was killed in flight—although several were expelled for misbehavior, and their faces were airbrushed out of group pictures.

14. Gagarin reported he "didn’t see God."

Gagarin’s friend and fellow cosmonaut Aleksey Leonov recently disclosed that this phrase was conjured up by a Soviet propaganda team and that Gagarin never said it. According to Leonov, Gagarin had a personal and profound respect for religion. He had his daughters baptized and actually publicly supported a private campaign to raise funds for rebuilding the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, which Stalin had destroyed.

17. Gagarin didn’t deserve his flight record because he didn’t land inside his capsule.

Aviation records were recognized only if the pilot didn’t crash his vehicle. Gagarin’s parachute landing did technically violate this, and the Soviets did decide to lie about it to avoid arguments. Once it was clear that parachute descent was part of the nominal landing profile, the rules were modified to permit it.
And a fitting tribute: Why the world still remembers its first spaceman — Gagarin's 1961 flight will live in history long after presidents are forgotten:
Every nation has its own glorious anniversaries to celebrate, but few are shared by the whole world. The anniversary of manned spaceflight, April 12, understandably is a red-letter day in Russia, homeland of the world's first space traveler, but it is a logical candidate for worldwide celebration as well.

Centuries from now, it may be one of only a few Earth-born anniversaries to be celebrated by off-world humanity. In anticipation of such a multiplanetary future for humanity, forward-looking people all over our present single planet should pause to consider what April 12, 1961, gave to Earth.
Furl the flags for a few moments, and look to the future.
posted by cenoxo at 8:45 PM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Большое спасибо, Ю́рий Алексе́евич.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:54 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Valentina Tershkova is pretty fascinating figure as well; Ria Novosti recently put out a set of 10 or so images (which felt really neat to see).

In June 1963, the whole world heard about the Russian “Chaika” (Seagull), Valentina Tereshkova’s call sign.

The first woman in space, ”Cinderella of the Stars” was born into a peasant family and worked at a textile factory after finishing evening school.

While working and earning an education at a technical school by correspondence, Valentina dreamed of the heavens. She learned how to skydive at a local aero-club, completing 163 jumps.

“There were only five women in our group, but the workload was more than the men’s,” Tereshkova explains, saying the training was extremely rough at that time. “But each of us was obsessed with the crazy idea of completing the training with brilliant results and of making a spaceflight.

In 2000, Valentina Tereshkova was named “Greatest Woman Achiever of the Century” by the British Women of the Year Association.

posted by infinite intimation at 9:22 PM on April 11, 2011


This book is a great introduction to Soviet space.

tl;dr you say? Allow me to summarize.

Inadvisably high tolerance to risk leads to speed, significant cost savings and occasional *truly* catastrophic disaster. Later, that risk tolerance also encourages an admirable and deplorable culture of make-do and improvisation. Chernobyl, the Kalashnikov, and the T-38 are non-space reflections of that engineering culture.

Russians, I wish I could casually put my hand on some non-military examples of what is effective and efficient from that culture. Learning about the Soviet space program was one of the most head-bending and inspiring things I have ever done.
posted by mwhybark at 9:22 PM on April 11, 2011


cenoxo: "The anniversary of manned spaceflight, April 12, understandably is a red-letter day in Russia, homeland of the world's first space traveler, but it is a logical candidate for worldwide celebration as well."

I was quite taken aback at a baseball game this weekend to realize I knew the day and year of the flight. Granted, I *would*, but I am am unaware of ever having made an effort to memorize it.

I look forward to explaining this to my wife in the future when I, as often occurs, misrecall our anniversary.
posted by mwhybark at 9:26 PM on April 11, 2011


The second half of the first century of human spaceflight has begun!

Cheers to the crew of Expedition 27!
posted by finite at 10:40 PM on April 11, 2011


It retrospect it's perhaps just as well that Gagarin was the first man up there, though I don't think he was ever technically in a true orbit. The string of early Soviet firsts in space motivated Kennedy's Apollo programme and without that stimulus Armstrong would never have made it to the moon. I've seen it argued that would actually have been a good thing, as Apollo's mammoth effort exhausted political will and public interest, and without it a more sustainable manned effort could have developed.

Given the last 40 years of bugger all though, I think that's unlikely. The ISS is in such a low orbit that its days are inevitably numbered and like most people I think we'd have been better just going for Mars. Columbus didn't spend twenty years piddling about in harbour practising for the big push over the horizon.

We assume that technological capability endlessly improves, but that's not always the case. Just as the Tasmanian aboriginals lost the ability to craft fish hooks over time, so our society is falling backwards in some way. Supersonic passenger transport, as magnificent as it is impractical, is just a memory and it's 40 years since we walked on the moon. The science fiction writers of the past envisioned a future full of wonderful hardware but we seem to have settled for a bunch of amazing software instead. I hope our future lies in the stars and if this is as far as we get then we're letting down Gagarin and his equally courageous fellows. We should be remembering him with a plaque and a party on top of Olympus Mons, not some spliced together TV show, no matter how pretty it may be.
posted by joannemullen at 11:55 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


50 years to the minute, everybody!
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 12:07 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, wait, springing forward.

No wonder we keep crashing into things.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 12:08 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The ISS is in such a low orbit that its days are inevitably numbered

Wow, you're not kidding. Under 200 miles seems pretty low. My understanding is that when the time comes, the US wants to deorbit the whole thing, but the USSR wants to take their modules and do something else with them. Typical of both.

I hope our future lies in the stars and if this is as far as we get then we're letting down Gagarin and his equally courageous fellows.

Our future in the stars could take other forms though. We could, for example, upload ourselves into something that can go out and explore the stars.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:14 AM on April 12, 2011


The New York Times had a excerpt from a book about Gagarin called Spaceman recently which is pretty interesting.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 4:37 AM on April 12, 2011


joannemullen [excellent comment, btw]: Columbus didn't spend twenty years piddling about in harbour practising for the big push over the horizon.

On the grand scale of things, we've barely slipped anchor: The Difficulties of Interstellar Travel.
posted by cenoxo at 4:44 AM on April 12, 2011


And you know who else liked space travel? Like America's Operation Paperclip, Russia's red stars in orbit owe a great deal to Operation Osoaviakhim:
The Soviet plan to deport thousands of German specialists into the USSR received code name Osoaviakhim, after formally volunteer Soviet organization which in 1930s united many enthusiasts of aviation, rocketry and related disciplines. Some two weeks prior to the operation, Serov received a list of people targeted for deportation. It included 2,200 specialists in the fields of aviation, nuclear technology, rocketry, electronics, radar technology and chemistry. They would be assigned to various industrial enterprises of the USSR... Counting family members, the total number of people assigned for deportation would reach 6,000 - 7,000 people.
To the victors go the definition of "technology transfer".
posted by cenoxo at 5:16 AM on April 12, 2011


Terrific post, thanks. I'm enjoying the movie greatly—brings back memories!
posted by languagehat at 7:50 AM on April 12, 2011


I'm not able to view the whole film (eating at my desk, over lunch). But with just the opening few minutes, I'm surprised at how emotional and moved I feel... watching the footage and hearing Gagarin's voice.
posted by avoision at 12:27 PM on April 12, 2011


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