Today the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight, by Yuri Gagarin who completed a full orbit of the Earth in the outer space in his Vostok spacecraft on April 12, 1961. My entire childhood went along with many following flights of the Soviet cosmonauts into space; they were the true heroes of the 60-s and then 1970s, both the symbols of the great era in the present and manifestations of even greater times in the future. As often, it was difficult to imagine that one day all these great developments of the now would become history, the deeds of yesterday.
Ok, it was ‘difficult’ but plausible. What was absolutely IM-possible to imagine is that one day the *real* Vostok will be offered for sale at the Sotheby’s (!!). Hold a breath for a sec – not a replica or a spare apparat have been stored somewhere in the hangars. No, the real spaceship, an identical to the one piloted by Gagarin! Moreover, the one that also flew to the space, on March 20, 1961, just a few days earlier that Gagarin did. The safe landing of this spaceship gave a final ‘green light’ to the ‘real first’ space flight.
Its official nickname is Vostok 3KA-2 (it was renamed into Vostok 1 only later); it went to the space with a dog called Zvezdocha (Little Star) and a mannequin called Ivan Ivanvoch and landed safely in the snow fields near Russian city Izhevsk after making one turn over the Earth.
I took all these pictures from a beautiful catalogue by Sotheby’s [pdf, ±30pp, ] that tells a very interesting story about this particular flight and the Soviet space program in general. There are lots of rare pictures there, too, some of them ‘personally nostalgic’ (like this post stamp with Zvezdochka – I remember having in my small collection).
The cover of this otherwise catalogue is a pretty interesting example of the ‘cultural wars’ (which I thought are all already in the past). The catalogue is about Soviet Vostok, but the picture is taken from the Moon, from one of the US space expeditions there. The past is never ‘there’ laying still; it keeps orbiting around us, often with unpredictable spins.