( , Orient
or East 1
) was the first
. The Vostok 3KA spacecraft was launched on April 12,
1961, taking into space Yuri Gagarin, a
cosmonaut from the Soviet Union.
The Vostok 1 mission was the first time
anyone had journeyed into outer space
and the first time anyone had entered into orbit
. The Vostok 1 was launched
by the Soviet space program
designed by the Soviet rocket scientists Sergey Korolyov
and Kerim Kerimov
Path of Gagarin's complete orbit; the
landing point is west of takeoff point due to the eastward rotation
of the Earth.
orbited the Earth
once in 108 minutes. He
returned unharmed, ejecting from the Vostok capsule above the
ground and parachuting
separately to the
ground since the capsule's parachute landing was deemed too rough
for cosmonauts to risk.
Ground controllers did not know if a stable orbit had been achieved
until 25 minutes after launch.
The spacecraft attitude control
run by an automated system. Medical staff and spacecraft engineers
were unsure how a human being might react to weightlessness, and
therefore the pilot's flight controls were locked out to prevent
Gagarin from taking manual control. (Codes to unlock the controls
were placed in an onboard envelope, for Gagarin's use in case of
emergency.) Vostok could not change its orbit, only spacecraft
attitude (orientation), and for much of the flight the spacecraft's
attitude was allowed to drift. The automatic system brought Vostok
1 into alignment for retrofire about 1 hour into the flight.
took place off the west coast
of Africa, near Angola, about from the desired landing place. The
for about 42 seconds. Due to weight constraints there was no backup
retrorocket engine. The spacecraft carried 10 days of provisions to
allow for survival and natural decay of the orbit in the event the
After retrofire, the Vostok equipment module unexpectedly remained
attached to the reentry module by a bundle of wires. The two halves
of the craft were supposed to separate ten seconds after retrofire,
but this did not happen until 10 minutes had passed. The spacecraft
went through wild gyrations before the wires burned through and the
descent module settled into the proper reentry attitude.
in 1961 required that a pilot must land with the spacecraft to be
considered an official spaceflight for the FAI record books. At the
time, the Soviet Union insisted that Gagarin had landed with the
Vostok and the FAI certified the flight. Years later, it was
revealed that Gagarin had ejected and landed separately from the
Vostok descent module.
When Soviet officials filled out the FAI papers to register the
flight of Vostok 1, they stated that the launch site was Baykonur
at . In
reality, the launch site was near Tyuratam at , to the
south west of "Baykonur".
They did this to try to keep the
location of the Space Center a secret. In 1995, Russian and
renamed Tyuratam Baikonur.
re-entry capsule is now on display at the museum of RKK
Energiya in Korolyov.
Officially the U.S. congratulated Russia on its
- Wednesday, April 12, 1961 Minutes before his
launch, Yuri Gagarin recorded this statement, "Dear friends,
known and unknown to me, my dear compatriots and all people of the
world! Within minutes from now, a mighty Soviet rocket
will boost my ship into the vastness of outer space. What
I want to tell you is this. My whole life is now before me
as a single breathtaking moment. I feel I can muster up my
strength for successfully carrying out what is expected of
- Countdown begins Yuri Gagarin is in the Vostok
1 spacecraft on the launchpad. His television picture appears on
television screens in the launch control
room from an onboard television camera. Sergey Korolyov speaks into a microphone:
" calling (Gagarin's call sign). The countdown is
about to start." Gagarin replied, "Roger. Feeling
fine, excellent spirits, ready to go."
- 06:07 UTC Launch occurs from
Cosmodrome Site No.1; after Gagarin's flight that launch pad
became known as Gagarin's
Start. At ignition and liftoff, Sergey Korolyov
radios, "Preliminary stage..... intermediate.....
main..... LIFT OFF! We wish you a good
flight. Everything is all right." Gagarin replies, "
(Off we go!)."
- 06:09 UTC Two minutes into the flight and the
four strap-on booster sections of the Vostok rocket have used up
the last of their propellant, they shut down and drop away from the
core vehicle. (T+ 119 s)
- 06:10 UTC The payload shroud covering Vostok 1
is released, this uncovers the window at Gagarin's feet with the
optical orientation device (lit. "look" or "glance"). (T+ 156
- 06:12 UTC Five minutes into the flight and the
Vostok rocket core stage has used up its propellant, shuts down and
falls away from the Vostok spacecraft and final rocket stage. The
final rocket stage ignites to continue the journey to orbit. (T+
- 06:13 UTC The rocket is still firing, pushing
Vostok 1 toward orbit. Gagarin reports, " .. the flight is
continuing well. I can see the Earth. The
visibility is good. ... I almost see
everything. There's a certain amount of space under
cumulus cloud cover. I continue the flight, everything is
- 06:14 UTC The rocket continues to fire,
starting to pass over central Russia now. Gagarin reports,
"Everything is working very well. All systems are
working. Let's keep going!"
- 06:15 UTC Three minutes into the burn of the
final rocket stage and Gagarin reports, " , I can't hear you
very well. I feel fine. I'm in good spirits.
I'm continuing the flight..." Vostok 1 is moving further
downrange from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. He is reporting back to
(the Baikonur ground station) and must be starting to move out of
radio range of that station.
- 06:17 UTC The Vostok rocket final stage shuts
down, ten seconds later the spacecraft separates and Vostok 1
reaches orbit. (T+ 676 s) Gagarin reports, "The craft is
operating normally. I can see Earth in the view port of
the . Everything is proceeding as planned".
passes over Russia and moves on over Siberia.
Part of the Vostok 1 control
- 06:21 UTC Vostok 1 passes
over the Kamchatka
peninsula and out over the North Pacific Ocean.
Gagarin radios, "...the lights are on on the descent mode
monitor. I'm feeling fine, and I'm in good spirits.
Cockpit parameters: pressure 1; humidity 65; temperature 20;
pressure in the compartment 1; first automatic 155; second
automatic 155; pressure in the retro-rocket system 320
- 06:25 UTC As Vostok 1 begins its diagonal
crossing of the Pacific Ocean from Kamchatka peninsula to the
southern tip of South America, Gagarin asks, "What can you tell
me about the flight? What can you tell me?". He is
requesting information about his orbital parameters. The ground station at
Khabarovsk reports back, "There are no instructions from
No. 20 (Sergey Korolyov), and the flight is
proceeding normally" They are telling Gagarin that they don't
have his orbital parameters yet because the spacecraft has been in
orbit for only 6 minutes, but the spacecraft systems are performing
- 06:31 UTC Gagarin transmits to the Khabarovsk
ground station, "I feel splendid, very well, very well, very
well. Give me some results on the flight!". Vostok 1
is nearing the VHF radio horizon for
Khabarovsk and they respond, "Repeat. I can't hear you
very well". Gagarin transmits again, "I feel very
good. Give me your data on the flight!" Vostok 1
passes out of VHF range of the Khabarovsk ground station and
contact is lost.
- 06:37 UTC Vostok 1 continues on its journey as
the Sun sets over the North Pacific. Gagarin
crosses into night, northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. Out of VHF range with
ground stations, communications must now take place via HF
- 06:46 UTC Khabarovsk ground station sends the
message "KK" via telegraph (on HF radio to Vostok 1). This message
means, "Report the monitoring of commands." They were asking
Gagarin to report when the spacecraft automated descent system had
received its instructions from the ground control. Gagarin reported
back at 06:48 UTC.
- 06:48 UTC Vostok 1 crosses the equator at
about 170° West, traveling in a south east direction and begins
crossing the South Pacific. Gagarin transmits over HF radio, "I
am transmitting the regular report message: 9 hours 48 minutes
(Moscow Time), the flight is proceeding successfully.
Spusk-1 is operating normally. The mobile index of the
descent mode monitor is moving. Pressure in the cockpit is
1; humidity 65; temperature 20; pressure in the compartment 1.2
... Manual 150; First automatic 155; second automatic 155;
retro rocket system tanks 320 atmospheres. I feel
- 06:49 UTC Gagarin reports he is on the night
side of the Earth.
- 06:51 UTC Gagarin reports the sun-seeking
attitude control system had been switched on. The sun-seeking
attitude control system is used to orient Vostok 1 for retrofire.
The automated orientation system consisted of two redundant
systems: an automatic/solar orientation system and a manual/visual
orientation system. Either system could operate the two redundant
cold nitrogen gas thruster systems, each
with of gas.
- 06:53 UTC The Khabarovsk ground station sends
Gagarin the following message via HF radio, "By order of No.33
(General Nikolai Kamanin) the
transmitters have been switched on, and we are transmitting this:
the flight is proceeding as planned and the orbit is as
calculated." They are telling Gagarin that Vostok 1 is in a
stable orbit. He acknowledges the message.
- 06:57 UTC Vostok 1 is over
the South Pacific between New Zealand and
Chile when Gagarin sends this message, "...I'm
continuing the flight, and I'm over America. I
transmitted the telegraph signal "ON".
- 07:00 UTC Vostok 1 crosses
the Strait of
Magellan at the tip of South America. News of the
Vostok 1 mission is broadcast on Radio Moscow.
- 07:04 UTC Gagarin sends spacecraft status
message, similar to the one sent at 06:48. The message is not
received by ground stations.
- 07:09 UTC Gagarin sends spacecraft status
message, the message is not received by ground stations.
- 07:10 UTC Passing over the
Atlantic, the Sun
rises and Vostok 1 is in daylight again. Vostok 1 is 15
minutes from retrofire.
- 07:13 UTC Gagarin sends spacecraft status
message, similar to the one sent at 06:48. Moscow picks up this
partial message from Gagarin, "I read you well. The
flight is going..."
- 07:18 UTC Gagarin sends spacecraft status
message, the message is not received by ground stations.
- 07:23 UTC Gagarin sends spacecraft status
message, the message is not received by ground stations.
- 07:25 UTC Vostok 1 is in retrofire attitude.
retros are fired for about 42 seconds as the spacecraft nears
Angola on the west
coast of Africa. Retrofire takes place about from the
planned landing point in Russia.
- 07:25 to 07:35 UTC Ten seconds after
retrofire, commands are sent to separate the Vostok service module from the reentry module ( ). One bundle of wires fails
to release and the two sections of the spacecraft remain attached
for another 10 minutes. Vostok 1 crosses the west coast of Africa
and continues over central Africa heading towards Egypt.
- 07:35 UTC The two halves of the spacecraft
begin reentry and go through wild gyrations as Vostok 1 nears
Egypt. Finally, the wire bundle burns through and releases the
reentry module. Gagarin telegraphs "Everything is OK" despite
continuing gyrations; he later reported that he did not want to
"make noise" as he had (correctly) reasoned that the gyrations did
not endanger the mission (apparently due to the spherical shape of
the reentry module).
- 07:35 to 07:55 UTC Reentry
continues over Egypt and out over the Mediterranean, near the west coast of Cyprus and then
Continuing to drop lower, Vostok 1 crosses
back into the Soviet Union on the Black Sea coast near Krasnodar. Gagarin experiences 8 g's (Gagarin's own report states "over 10 g's")
during reentry but remains
- 07:55 UTC Vostok 1 is still 7 km from the
ground. The hatch is released and two seconds later Gagarin ejects
from Vostok 1. At altitude, the main parachute is deployed from the
Vostok spacecraft. The Vostok 1 lands at 07:55 UTC. Two schoolgirls
witness the Vostok landing and described the scene: "It was a
huge ball, about two or three metres high. It fell, then
it bounced and then it fell again. There was a huge hole
where it hit the first time."
- 08:05 UTC Gagarin, because his parachute
opened at a much higher altitude than Vostok 1 ( vs. 2.5 km),
lands about 10 minutes after his spacecraft. Both he and the
spacecraft land via parachute south west of Engels, in the Saratov region at . A farmer and her daughter observed the
strange scene of a figure in a bright orange suit with a large
white helmet landing near them by parachute. Gagarin later
recalled, "When they saw me in my space suit and the parachute
dragging alongside as I walked, they started to back away in
fear. I told them, don't be afraid, I am a Soviet like
you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to