Well... here goes... my first ever blog. Will anyone enjoy it? Will anyone comment? Will anyone actually be bothered to read it?
Fifty years ago this very day, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space; his 108-minute mission aboard Vostok I earned Russia one of its most notable Cold War victories, but also secured Gagarin a place in the history books.
Apparently, shortly before lift-off, the 27 year-old cosmonaut was reminded about where his food for the flight was located. “You’ve got sausage, candy and jam to go with the tea,” said rocket designer Sergei Korolyov (although he probably said it in Russian...). “The main thing is that there is sausage...” replied Gagarin whose calm demeanour surely masked an inner nervousness which was unlikely to have been helped by consuming a couple of Wall’s bangers...
However many trials, tests and simulations that had taken place and however many animals that had been blasted into space, I can’t even begin to imagine how Gagarin must have been feeling inside his capsule as the engines roared, flames leapt and the rocket began its ascent... sausages now nicely barbecued. He was reported as saying he had complete faith in the designers and similar trust in the spacecraft’s safety, but there must have been a number of points during the mission (if not the whole of it) when he wondered if he would return safely to Earth. Nobody could have been completely certain how Gagarin would react, both physically and mentally, to the orbital journey, but without people like Gagarin who are prepared to take such enormous risks, how would the world ever develop?
As Vostok I re-entered the atmosphere, Gagarin supposedly endured g-forces more than double those felt by today’s space travellers. And instead of the dramatic ocean splashdowns preferred by the Americans, Gagarin’s six feet wide flame-scarred capsule landed in a field... where Russian’s newest hero was soon offered bread and milk by an ever-so-slightly astonished farm worker.
“That is idealski,” Yuri replied, “now I can make hot dogski with my sausages. Have you any ketchupov?”
Which probably weren’t his next words...
Unsurprisingly, Russia’s incredible achievement gained enormous media coverage – totally deserved irrespective of any propaganda issues; Gagarin became an instant celebrity and met dignitaries from all over the world... “To me my whole life seems to be one perfect moment,” Gagarin once recalled; a rather sentimental view that would be echoed many years later by... Martine McCutcheon.
Back in the 1960s, the “Space Race” quickly gathered momentum with two Super Powers vying for celestial supremacy and although five decades have elapsed since Gagarin’s momentous flight, the story of his remarkable endeavour has an indelible place in world history. Sadly, Gagarin’s story was to have a tragic ending - he was killed as a result of a flying accident in 1968. It might not be any consolation, but at least he didn’t end up advertising low fat yoghurt...
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin: 9th March 1934-27th March 1968.
All my own work... almost.