back to article World pays tribute to Yuri Gagarin

The world is today paying tribute to Yuri Gagarin, who 50 years ago became the first man in space. Gagarin in his Vostok capsule. Pic: RIA Novosti Gagarin departed Kazakhstan's Tyuratam missile range (later renamed Baikonur Cosmodrome) at 07:08 GMT on 12 April, 1961. The 27-year-old famously shouted "Poyekhali! (Let's go …


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  1. maclovinz

    Thank you, from all...

    I think I speak for everyone when I say "thank you". Without individuals to brave the possibility of death in space, not knowing what they are in for, we would not have half the technology and understanding of life that we have today.

    "...due to 'touch down' in the Mall on 14 July." ....haha, clever El Reg.

    Pints all around.

    1. darkmage0707077

      Proper Celebration

      Pint? No, no, we need Vokda to properly celebrate this!

      Feel the burn!

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

        Re: Proper Celebration

        What, you don't drink vodka by the pint?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Vodka pints

          I used to.

          Liters nowadays, but I am going into detox soon, thank goodness.

          Mixes great with squashes I find.

    2. Steve Evans

      Re: Thank you, from all...

      I'll drink to that.

      Budem zdorovy

      1. Solomon Emmanuel Goldstien

        Another round...

        Будем здоровы!!

        (a beer, as there is no vodka pic)

  2. Anton Ivanov

    Routine training flight my a**e

    Let's get this straight.

    1. He was there to visit his friend from the days when he was a fighter pilot in command of the squadron - Vladimir Seryogin. Seryogin was a high ranking officer at the base (in fact probably the highest at that moment). Seryogin by the way was higher in rank than Gagarin - a decorated commander, test pilot and WW2 ace. Seryogin specifically was the guess what - the head Mig-15 test pilot. Yeah... him not ejecting the tanks straight away and/or not being able to control a Mig-15 and not evaluating correctly that the plane is a goner so you have to hit the eject button. No comment

    2. There is one document missing from the comission report - flight roster which shows Gagarin and Seryogin to have a scheduled training flight on that day. No comment.

    3. Gagarin and Seryogin got into a plane which was clearly not properly prepared for flight and they took off. No comment.

    4. They smashed into the ground at 10-15 degrees head on. I have seen the birch trail (still visible 15 years later) myself in 1981. I can probably even dig out some pictures of me with my dad standing next to the birches. The plane was _NOT_ falling in a flatspin. It was going into the ground. At speed. And going forward when it hit. With a clear tree trail where it did and a crater where it impacted. No comment.

    Overall - no comment. But I am not surprised that there is a repeated refusal to re-investigate the case.

    1. copsewood

      @Anton: coming at this one completely cold

      I know next to nothing about the circumstances surrounding Yuri's death, and you may well know things I don't, but I need much better evidence than what you have stated above to make a conspiracy rather than a cock up theory fully credible. Cock ups are very common, especially amongst testosterone filled test pilots who are known not to be particularly risk averse by profession. His visit to Manchester a few months after his spaceflight was so well received in the UK that Gagarin must have been seen as a potentially useful ambassador for the Soviet regime in any case:

      Conspiratorial eliminations of inconvenient and popular figures seem likely, by their very nature, to leave evidence of the kind surrounding the Kennedy assassination (plenty of smoke and we have a saying "no smoke without fire", but still unproven):

      a. Important suspects in the plot themselves being eliminated soon afterwards to prevent them from talking.

      b. Other bits of evidence of a plot (e.g. witnesses hearing gunshots and seeing smoke somewhere [grassy knoll] not accepted as relevant within the official explanation.

      c. Elaborate official explanations of gunshot trajectories stretching credibility, requiring bullets to have to have ricochetted in order to have penetrated the victim more than once.

      Without better evidence than you have stated above, Occam's Razor tends to point to cockup (e.g. to normal human laziness in signing safety check boxes without people really checking) as opposed to conspiracy as being the simpler and more likely explanation.

      Is there any evidence of dissenting views having been expressed by Gagarin ? If not then we are lacking a crucial factor to make any conspiracy theory credible: i.e. the need for a motive, for which in the case of Kennedy, as a charismatic, liberal and reforming US president, he was making enough enemies.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Dude, you are going on a completely wrong vector

        Two Russians meet.

        After that they cannot control something which both of them know like the fingers of their hands.

        NO COMMENT

    2. Reg Blank

      I know nothing...nothing...

      ...about Yuri Gagarin's death, so I am not going to comment on what might have happened that day. So I will only confine my argument to your points of conspiracy.

      Aircraft - I gather from your comment that you are Russian or otherwise former-Soviet, and I don't mean to be offensive or get into nationalistic arguments, but this was a MiG-15 (I assume UTI). Soviet equipment of that period don't exactly have the best of safety or reliability records. It could have easily been a mechanical or maintenance fault that cause a crisis in the cockpit. Or it could have been a similar fault that prevented ejection of tanks or seats. Such ejection failures are still reasonably common today, usually of tanks and weapons rather than seats. In addition, aircraft cockpits of all nations in this period often weren't very ergonomically designed for usability. How well trained/competent were the maintenance engineers working on the aircraft? Conscription-based militaries don't have the best of records when it comes to training or competence around complex machinery.

      Pilots - Experts are no less likely to make errors than novices, just for different reasons. It is their very familiarity with a task or device that can cause errors. Overconfidence is a killer. Expertise is also no guarantee that a problem encountered can also be overcome. These were two human beings, not perfect and infallible fighter gods. Maybe the problems were too serious for either of them to remember about ejecting the drop-tanks? Maybe they didn't eject because they thought they could recover the aircraft?

      Flight Schedule - I can think of a non-state-sponsored-conspiracy laden reason why there is no documentation: It got lost. Office documentation, even important ones, go walkabout all the time. It just needs someone to carelessly misplace it. Someone may have made it lost, but what would be the point? You said that Vladimir Seryogin was the senior officer on the base. If I was creating a conspiracy to crash the plane (one that required A LOT of on-site conspirators) I would get someone to testify that Gagarin and Seryogin went on an unscheduled joy flight. Furthermore, if this was a state conspiracy how easy would it be to enter the flight into the schedule normally, or even just CREATE a schedule? I cannot see that this is an issue.

      Flight Preparation - See my point above about overconfidence. In addition I will point out that walking around an aircraft isn't going to catch everything, and also that assumptions about a device's readiness or condition isn't confined to novices.

      Impact Angle - Surely an impact crater can't show you what was happening to the aircraft in the lead up to impact? I'm not an expert, but I would think that all it can show is what the aircraft attitude was, direction of movement and a rough estimation of velocity AT THE MOMENT OF IMPACT. It cannot say whether the aircraft was under control, partial control or no control. As I said above, perhaps Gagarin thought he had gotten the plane back under control and just ran out of altitude. Given that the MiG-15UTI didn't have a flight data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder, you really can't say what was happening or what the impact site might mean.

      Conclusion - The USAF publishes reports of their air crashes which the public can read for themselves. I suggest you go and look at them because it may help you. These reports show: modern/new aircraft have mechanical failures, otherwise well designed aircraft have fatal flaws, very well trained engineers make maintenance mistakes, experienced pilots make silly novice mistakes, experienced pilots show off and kill themselves and others, experienced pilots often don't eject when they have the chance because they think they can get the aircraft back under control, and that inattention to routine tasks/procedures tend to be magnified by the unexpected.

      The only thing exceptional about the Gagarin/Seryogin crash was the occupants. I imagine that none of my arguments will have an effect on your opinion that this was a state-sponsored murder, so I will ask one last question: Why? There is no reason for Gagarin to be murdered. He wasn't a "trouble-maker" or an activist. It may be propaganda, but what I've seen is he was a committed patriot, and a national hero that the government tried hard to keep alive because he was such an effective icon for communism. To a government tool, alive he could continue to be trotted out for patriotic duty, just like Neil Armstrong. But dead he is a statue and a face for postage stamps and bank notes.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Thanks, but I'm kind of sad now...

    I was thirteen months old when Gagarin orbited. I was nine years old when Armstrong left footprints. Twenty-one when the space shuttle first flew in anger.

    Now I'm in my fifties. And I still can't commute to orbit. Or work in the asteroid belt, catch a sub-orbital 'fifty minutes to anywhere' transport, have ice from Saturn's rings in my G&T, holiday at the Mars colonies. Hell, I haven't even got a flying car...

    I guess I read too much science fiction.

    Kudos to the pioneers, and may we do your memories better than we have so far.

    1. AlexH

      Completely agree

      Unfortunately, I wasn't around for all these 'firsts', but I still appreciate the magnitude of them and, more importantly, the sheer speed of progress from first human flight, to first satellite launch, to first manned orbit, to finally culminating in the first man on the Moon.

      And yes, it makes me very sad that we just appear to have stopped there; I'm acutely aware that within my lifetime (mid-twenties now) I'm pretty unlikely to witness any similar firsts of this magnitude and I do find that thought incredibly depressing.

      (Not as depressing as the alternative - that if I DO witness progress at this speed again, it will probably be because of WW3...)

      STOP - because that's what we've done.

      1. The lone lurker

        I wouldn't be too sad...

        You're quite likely to see some firsts in your lifetime although it will almost certainly be China making them.

      2. Solomon Emmanuel Goldstien
        Big Brother

        Oh, we've not stopped...

        We seem to be going in reverse as far as education in nearly all the sciences. Every country in the EU, the folks in the US and nearly everyone else has cut back or dropped science and engineering programs from their university schedules due to lack of enrollment or lack of funding, while the number of students enrolled in MBA programs and the like keeps rising. It seems also that The West has shipped many of it's "thinking" jobs elsewhere so as to cut costs and dodge taxes.

        Everyone wants to be an investment banker or stockbroker, making money off other people money. (Which isn't even real money, witnessing the number of countries going bankrupt over the past half-dozen years, the money is handed out per a bunch of imaginary numbers on brokerage house spreadsheets.) And if a project can't show a profit within its first quarter, what good is it? The science gathered from space and defense programs of decades ago are just now reaping benefits. Things like research take time, sometime lots of time, to get from lab to prototype, then from prototype to production. Everyone want's to make money NOW rather than waiting decades for assets to mature and dividends become available.

        It's as if no one really cares any longer, and many just want the government or corporations to handle things, as - you all know - they have only our best interests at heart.

        Yea, I think I'll have that second pint (of vodka) now... while I watch the news out of China for The Next New Thing.


        1. Paul_Murphy

          I agree.

          Hands up those nations (or planets) with civilian supersonic transport.

          What? but I'm sure we had some - oh well....

          For petes sake WE don't even have an aircraft carrier anymore, or VSTOL aircraft, even our supersonic fighters are running out of parts.

          Education is being treated as a joke, the very thought of putting effort into learning is laughed at by most kids.

          Ask a kid what books they read and I wonder what reaction you'll get.

          I hate to think what sort of world we'll be retiring in.

          Not quite 'Idiocracy' yet.


    2. Charles Manning

      Manned space flight: politics, not science

      Hats off to Gagarin and and his orbital brethren, but manned flights to the moon and beyond have always been political moves - not scientific ones.

      Orbital platforms (ISS etc) give us an interesting platform for some science, but going to the moon was motivated purely by the political goal of beating the Russians at something during in the cold war - to give the USians something to crow about.

      It is ridiculous to send a man to do a robot's job. The Russians knew this from day one. The Russians missions to the moon gathered as much science (photos, rocks, sensor measurements) as the yanks. Robots allow you to do things far more efficiently and experimentally - no bodies to worry about.

      What the yanks wanted though was a picture of guys in white saluting the Stars and Stripes.

      It is not at all surprising that once Apollo 11 had fulfilled the political goal of putting a man on the moon and bringing him back, the Apollo mission lost all its lustre. Apollo 13 would have had no more interest than ST116 if it had not had all the drama of men stuck in space.

  4. Jemma
    Big Brother


    Since Gagarin was descended from a long long line of Russian princes, theres more than one reason for a soviet communist wanting to remove him if he was getting a little too popular...

    1. asdf

      no way

      But the Russian way is best after all. Isn't that what that russian reporter was saying about how the Arizona shooting incident would never happen in Russia. He is probably right as in general in Russia, famous and rich people only get shot if the power structure (mob, shadow government) condones it.

    2. Turtle

      Uh-huh. . .

      "Since Gagarin was descended from a long long line of Russian princes, theres more than one reason for a soviet communist wanting to remove him if he was getting a little too popular..."

      In keeping with the spirit of the article, let me put it this way: U tebya nyet mozgov, a ge....

  5. l8rm8e
    Thumb Up

    Well done Ruskies!

    I reckon Russian should be (hand on heart) super proud of this milestone.

    Sure ... Soviet history is spotty ... but this is an unequivocal triumph for humanity .

    I hope his descendants (if any?) are aware of the world's admiration and appreciation.

    From an ocker Aussie ... good on ya's .. ya commie buggers!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Here's To You, Yuri

    I will be raising a glass, or two, to you and your courage tonight.

  7. darkmage0707077
    Thumb Up

    First Flight

    I really enjoyed the vid; the music was very appropriate to the mood and the footage most of the time. I wish they could have synced the voice recording with what was filmed on the IS more, but I understand that Nature does not conform to film maker schedules. Overall a wonderful tribute to the first flight in space, and a nice piece to reflect on!

  8. Johan Bastiaansen
    Thumb Up

    A weather balloon eh . . .

    Like the one that landed in Roswell perhaps??? ;-)

    And Neil, I share your nostalgic feelings. My mother and I watched the moon landing on TV.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Huge testicles on every space pioneer

    and wholly deserving of the plaudits they receive

    1. Paul_Murphy

      Even the female ones?

      Hmm spaceticles...


  10. Jan 0 Silver badge

    The stuff of dreams.

    Oh Yuri, you were the one!

    You made me proud to be a human.

    May your name live on until as long as there are people to remember you.

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    There is someone who needs to build that ICBM, ya know...

    Hommage to Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, too, please!

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Za zdrowie Comrade Gagarin

    We toasted you with vodka in our English pub this evening. If someone offered me a one-way flight to Mars tomorrow, I would accept without question, because of the example you set.

  13. Adrian Esdaile

    Go around one more time, Yuri!

    I'll be raising a glass for you tonight Yuri.

    Thanks for opening up the universe to us.

  14. Winkypop Silver badge

    True heroes

    Not your plastic-soldiers of today!

    Flame for a safe re-entry.

  15. Gilgamesh

    My mum met Gagarin

    on his visit to Manchester 50 years ago. This is an email she sent me last week (yes, my mum can use a computer) ...

    "I was young - really young at the time of Gagarin`s visit to Manchester. I was at A.E.I. (later G.E.C.) when he came. It was VERY emotional. It was the height of the Cold War. All here were mighty suspicious of Russia and it`s evil intentions. And then - here comes this incredibly brave handsome man - forever smiling - to see us. He was so open and genuinely friendly. He was greeted with all the adulation he deserved... It was very moving. Up to seeing him in the flesh, we believed in the Cold War. When we saw him in the flesh, and after he had gone; we were left with the lasting and deep question of `what Cold War? WHAT is it all about? This man is no Cold War....`. From there it went on as you know, and suspicion started to drop away. But it was Yuri Gargarin`s visit that was the beginning of the end of total hostilities. Very moving indeed... He inspired us and we just loved him.... When I found out he had been killed I was (and still am) very sad indeed. I wonder whether they got rid of him..... He certainly did not fit Russia`s big plan at the time."

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coverup of accident

    discovery channel says that there was a sukoi up there with him that lit its burners within 15m of the plane. There were 2 distinct booms that day. 2seconds appart. He only needed 2 more seconds to regain control of his plane. Sadly he didnt have the altitude to spare. Documents were later altered to show the sukoi was 70miles away afterburning into the cloud.

    1. Silent but Deadly

      Jets move fast


      At Mach 1, 70 miles is a maximum 6 minutes away. Hardly a plausible coverup and pretty obvious on ground radar.

      Flight Levels would be a different matter....

  17. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Flat spin

    Anton - you ever been in a flat spin? The plane is coming down in a spiral at some considerable speed -enough to make a big crater and 15 degrees is not unlikely for the angle.of descent - remember its out of control not out of all lift.

  18. James Pickett

    On vocation

    "Vocational School no 10"

    I wonder how voluntary that was..?

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