26. THE BIG LAUNCH

I love the atmosphere of a big launch – but space enthusiasts will notice one thing missing here: There is no count-down! Korolev’s team of leather-helmeted ground controllers didn’t work to a strictly defined ‘T’ launch-time. Instead, like normal aircraft crews, they simply worked through a checklist of preparations until ready.
Count-downs are dramatic – but that is because they were invented for dramatic purposes! The first occurrence of a rocket-launch countdown is not in real-life, but in Fritz Lang’s 1920s film Frau im Mond (The Woman in the Moon). We have already traced the link from Friede’s moon rocket, via Herman Oberth and Werner von Braun, to the real life American space program, so it is perhaps ultimately down to Fritz Lang and his scriptwriters that countdowns became part of the soundtrack of the space-age.

It is at this point in the story that it begins to be possible to see the action through the camera lens. There are plenty of official Soviet still and movie images of the launch, although for practical reasons, some of them had to be ‘staged’ by Korolev and his crew later.

Using these as reference, I was very impressed by the design of the space-suit helmets, with their clever visors that roll up inside the shell of the helmet itself. I deliberately kept the rocket mostly out of sight during this sequence. Not only does that make the final launch more dramatic, it reflects the reality. Just as the passengers hardly get to see the plane at a big airport, Yuri hardly sees the rocket itself as he approaches. It is cradled and partly enclosed by the gantry, while he is inside first a bus, and then an elevator. On the gantry itself, only the entrance to the capsule is visible. The rocket itself has to be imagined.

This entry was posted in Making a Graphic Novel, Sergei Korolev, The Book, The Space Race, Yuri Gagarin, YURI's DAY, Yuri's Flying Machines. Bookmark the permalink.

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