31. A dark secret

While Vostok took Yuri safely and efficiently into orbit, how it got him back down again was, for many years, an awkward secret. Part of the great propaganda battle between East and West was the race, not just into space, but to claim records: The furthest, the fastest, the highest. You might think that the world’s first spaceman could easily claim an altitude record -no contest. But the reality was not so simple. The relevant international governing body had a rule: You had to land in the craft you took off in. gagarin. Man enters space, Huntsville Times

The Americans solved the problem with a relatively ‘soft’ landing in the sea, the famous ‘splash-down’. The Soviets had once envisaged a sea-landing, but in the event opted for the privacy of the land inside Soviet borders. This meant ejecting at high altitude, and a parachute descent to earth. It also meant that they could not legitimately claim the altitude record.

Someone made a decision that would have difficult consequences for Yuri: There would be a cover-up. For many years the real method of landing was kept a dark secret. Yuri, a naturally honest and forthright character, was forced to play a difficult game when facing the world’s press afterwards, skilfully deflecting questions about how, precisely, he made it back to Earth.

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

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