That’s right – sixty years ago today, Yuri Gagarin from the Soviet Union became the first human in space, and the first to orbit the Earth, and the first to scare the hell out of some Russian farmers when he landed, mostly due to the secrecy that the Soviet space program maintained. I’ve covered my thoughts on this accomplishment, and the space race in general, on both the fiftieth and the fifty-ninth anniversary (which happened to be easter,) and in the latter, I lamented that despite a couple of small shelves full of space program stuff, I had nothing that commemorated Gagarin’s milestone (but was acting on it.) I did indeed correct this oversight, in two ways, and the first was a model of the Vostok 1 rocket booster which carried Gagarin’s capsule (Vostok 3KA) into orbit.
Despite getting this by the end of April last year, this lounged around on my shelves until the anniversary was approaching again, and I got off my ass to complete it in time – with less than a day to spare. I used to be an avid model builder, but that was years ago and the practice had largely lapsed, so I had to get back into the swing of it, and I’ve certainly done better, but for a commemorative it works just fine.
I had to do a bit of searching for photos of the real thing, of which there are few (as in, just one of the launch itself) to try and get some details correct, and at 1/100 scale, it stands 38cm tall. This particular kit featured a semi-detailed orbital capsule, which also took a few searches to get the details of – this is what modellers do. I didn’t go nuts with it, because if I wanted to do fine detail it wouldn’t be for something so small, but I did end up adding some stuff to the capsule beyond what the kit provided.
Inside, the only thing provided was the seat and Gagarin’s figure itself (seen from the top down here, orange suit with white helmet,) so everything else was added, though the detail on the exterior ‘waist’ of the orbital vehicle was in the kit. The spherical re-entry capsule itself was (in the model) only 20mm across, so not a lot of opportunity to add stuff unless I felt like working under heavy magnifiers, which I didn’t. Plus the kit was sparse on other details so not worth the effort. However, it included a clear half of the nose cone, so the capsule could be seen in place, or you can rotate that around (like the photo above) to make it look a bit more realistic.
I was going to add some stuff about the launch, flight, and re-entry, but it’s been a long day as I’m typing this, with a major unplanned project taking over, so I’ll just refer you to better sources anyway. The most notable thing is that, unlike the US space program, the Soviet/Russian programs brought their capsules in over land. Gagarin’s flight was slowed by parachute and then he ejected to land outside the capsule, but later Soyuz capsules descended all the way on parachutes, but had/have a long probe extending out the bottom; when it touches earth, it triggers the retro rockets that slow the capsule a bit more and make the landing gentler. Because these might come down well out of immediate reach of recovery teams, out in the Russian barrens, cosmonauts were given survival training, including foraging, and even carried a gun in the capsule for protection against bears.
There was another thing that I ordered, from Ukraine, and that was a Vostok 1 commemorative pin – near as I can tell, this is an authentic issue from that time period, but I could be wrong since I didn’t spend a lot for it. Regardless, I’ll be wearing it all day today, which probably wouldn’t have garnered any notice even if I was out ‘in public,’ but now about the only people who might see it are The Girlfriend and possibly a delivery person. If they remark about it, however, I’ll be sure to provide plenty of information.
And again, this posted at 06:07 Universal Coordinated Time, the time when Gagarin launched, because.