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Yuri Gagarin – The Launch

Fifty years ago today Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Our version of the great man is here to blog about that life-changing lift-off…

Fifty years ago today Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Our version of the great man is here to blog about that life-changing lift-off…

Yuri Gagarin (c) RIA Novosti
Yuri Gagarin (c) RIA Novosti

The moment has come. The rocket is stood on the launch pad and I’m strapped tightly into my ejection seat.

On my headset I hear the voice of the Chief.

‘Yuri, 15 minute mark’.


There is no countdown.

The spacecraft is coming to life now as pumps begin to whirr and circuits click on. The conversation is professional, to the point.

‘Launch key to go position’.

‘Air purging’.

‘Idle run’.

And then . . .


In my imagination, the moment of launch would be obvious. But really, it is hard to tell if I have left the ground or not. There is a lot of noise, vibration and shaking but am I really on my way? Urging the spacecraft on as though it is a living thing I call out.

‘Let’s go!’

No doubt now, as I feel the rocket push me it the back. I am pushed harder and harder into my seat as I accelerate away from the earth. A voice again.

‘T plus 100. How do you feel?’

How do I feel? I feel good. I feel very good!

My heart misses a beat as the rocket seems to stop dead in the sky. The straps dig into my flesh and I am flung forward. For the briefest moment, I fear disaster but I realise that it is the boosters shutting down and separating from the rest of the rocket – I’m still on my way.

And now . . . orbit. I am in orbit! The motors have shut down and there’s the most amazing sensation – it’s not unexpected, but I am floating. Little pieces of dirt, a pencil, drift about and the straps of my harness float lazily in front of me. I report back.

‘I am weightless. It’s not unpleasant and I’m feeling fine.’

What a sight!

Looking through the window, the view takes my breath away. There is very little sensation of speed even though I know I am travelling at 28,000 km/h. The sea is the most beautiful blue and the clouds, so far bellow are tinged with pink from the setting sun. I must report! I try to be calm and collected for this is a serious business. But it’s hard not to show my excitement –

‘The flight continues well. The machine is functioning normally. Radio reception is excellent. Am carrying out observations of the earth.Visibility good, I can see the clouds, I can see everything. It’s beautiful!’

The Earth from space
The Earth from space (still from First Orbit film)

He’s gone up and now he must come down. Yuri will be back later today to finish the story in another blog post. In the meantime check out the Gagarin-related events in the Museum.