A shock for the West

On April 12, 1961, Russia broadcast a historic radio bulletin that stunned the world. Yuri Gagarin, a 27-year-old Soviet Air Force pilot, had just become the first human ever to fly in space, aboard a small capsule named Vostok (‘East’). … Continue reading

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36. Yuri’s final fatal flight

I confess. I had no luck tracking down the nose number of the Mig15bis in which Yuri took his final, fatal flight. So I made one up. If anyone asks, tell them I did it to confuse the CIA. How … Continue reading

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34. Sober confession

Just as Yuri is taking off into the bright lights of international celebrity, the story jumps briefly back to the dark days of Stalin, as Korolev, perhaps aware of his own growing frailty, reveals to Yuri and a colleague his … Continue reading

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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, … Continue reading

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30. GIVEN HALF A CHANCE

Fifty percent. That’s how some people reckoned Yuri’s chances of making it back. Asked about this afterwards, Yuri was dismissive: ‘Sometimes people trip over and break their necks walking along the ground.’ Continue reading

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