We left him in orbit but now it’s time to come back to Earth. Our own version of Yuri Gagarin is back to finish the story of his historic space flight.
Things are happening very quickly and already I must prepare for my return to earth. As I pass over Africa, the retro rockets begin to fire.
For 79 seconds, they slow me down, allowing gravity to drag me down once more into the clutches of the atmosphere.
Now the retro pack is jettisoned, twisting Vostok around as it goes and I begin to think of the people on earth. My parents, my wife – what will they think when they hear where I’ve been? I had to tell them a lie about a business trip. Ha – some business trip this is!
I am distracted from my thoughts by the twisting of the spacecraft. This should have stopped as soon as the retro pack was released, but something is obviously wrong. The cables that join the pack to the re-entry module are still attached and the two parts begin to spin around each other like children on a playground carousel.
There is a crackling sound as the heat builds up and I am pushed harder against my straps as the spinning increases. Will the heat shield cope with this unexpected turn of events? Will the cable break free? No one can tell me, as the hot atmosphere stops any radio signals from reaching me.
Then, bang! It’s gone. The heat of re-entry must have severed the cable.
The view begins to change, as the black of space becomes the purple, then the blue of the atmosphere. I am almost home. At 7000 metres I eject from the capsule and begin my final decent into the quiet countryside.
The ground rushes towards me. As I prepare for impact, I am aware or three pairs of eyes looking at me in fear and disbelief.
Bang! I hit the ground, rolling in the way I have been taught. The earth smells so good after the stale air inside of the spacecraft.
Gathering my parachute, I am aware once more of those eyes. They belong to a woman, a girl and a dappled cow and I quickly realise why they look so frightened. What a sight I must be to these poor people!
I try to put them at their ease. Taking off my helmet I say
‘I’m a friend comrades, a friend!’
The woman swallows hard.
‘Can it be that you have come from outer space?’
‘As a matter of fact . . . I have!’
My journey has been short – just 108 minutes – but the world will never be the same again.
We will be celebrating Yuri’s achievement all through the Easter holidays – check out our programme of special events.