Paper models, photos and musings of a Paper Kosmonaut

12 April 2011

Never too old to learn new stuff about old events

Today was the 50th anniversary of the first manned spaceflight. The 12th of April 1961 Lieutenant Yuri Gagarin rode his Vostok spacecraft into orbit on an R7 rocket.
While most of the flight was interpreted quite soon after there seemed to be confusion about Gagarins re-entry.
For long was believed or widely accepted the separation of the engine module and the "sharik", the ball-shaped return capsule went wrong and that several cables didn't sever when the separation occurred. Other sources tell the whole "plug" which connected both spacecraft parts did not drop out of its socket.

All in all the re-entry must have led to a very distressing and uncomfortable ride back to the surface. However, the facts seem to be different as to what I learned to believe. Anatoly Zak, the man from Russian spaceweb, wrote today about the real facts.
When the retro rocket fired over the west coast of Africa, one valve malfunctioned and caused the burn to stop one second early. But because of the rogue valve gas escaped out of the system and sent the craft spinning. Furthermore, the separation of both parts didn't occur. The decrease in speed was enough to start the re-entry trajectory but it became a very bumpy ride. Only when Vostok 1 passed Egypt, ten minutes later, the two parts came loose and the sharik was straightened. The short burn caused the descent angle to have a steeper curve so Gagarin landed 300 km short of his target area.

This makes my diorama of Gagarin's fiery return more or less a fable. The attempt to try and make flames from tissue paper was a one-off try. However, on this day it is worth to give it another look.

Gagarin's Fiery Return in 1/72, 200 grams paper & tissue. Picture in frame shows Egyptian coastline.
Model design: Leo Cherkashyn.

But let's not forget today also marks the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle flight. Bob Crippen and John Young flew Columbia on its maiden trip after some delays and holds. Today, NASA announced the locations the remaining shuttles will be sent to after retiring. Although it would have been an great sight to have them seen displayed all next to each other, along with Enterprise, NASA designated Discovery to the NASM in Washington DC, Atlantis remains on KSC grounds after her final touchdown, Endeavour might be sent to land n California, since it will be residing in the California Science Center in Los Angeles. (So she'll be closest to her birth grounds, which are in Palmdale.)
Enterprise will change her quarters from the NASM to the Big Apple, where the Intrepid aircraft carrier has a place for the shuttle in the hangar on the quay.
Let's hope these last two flights will go well.

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