“The man who sees his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is seen as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is seen as a foreign land.” Hugo of Saint Victor-12th Century Theologist, who was the first human to ‘see’ the entire world with equanimity, minus ‘attachments’ or as a foreign land?
Yuri Alekseyevich awoke early on March 27, 1968 to maintain his “retraining” as a fighter pilot, a formality being a lieutenant in the Soviet Air Force. He was permanently banned from further spaceflights, following the fatal crash of Soyuz 1 mission, which killed his fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov where Alekseyevich served as a backup crew.
As a member of the lower and upper chambers of the Supreme Soviet, he was allowed to fly regular aircraft.
On a rainy and windy morning of that fateful day Alekseyevich was scheduled to fly three missions in a MiG-15 training jet—two solo and one with Seryogin, which was the day’s first flight. He boarded a bus bound for the airfield and learned he was missing his identification. The superstitious man told the people around him this was a bad omen. A few minutes after 10.00 am he and Seryogin took off in the jet to the flight zone in deteriorating weather conditions. A few minutes later, Alekseyevich came over the radio and announced completion of the exercise, which included vertical loops and barrel rolls, and that he was heading to base.
Radio silenced for 10 minutes. Base authorities dispatched rescue teams. They found the burning, charred plane around 3 pm in the countryside. Only Seryogin’s body was identified. Some consolation that Alekseyevich had ejected before the disaster. Consolation lasted few hours until his charred body was found. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin’s body, the first human being, not only to travel to space but circled the earth in 108 minutes 7 years before on April 12, 1961, was lying not far from the plane’s wreckage.
29-volume State Commission Report on the tragedy inconclusive
The hastily assembled commission proposed several theories like the pilots perhaps turned sharply to avoid hitting a bird or a weather balloon, causing a tailspin from which they never recovered, but failed in making any convincing evidence in proof. It further said it was not a systematic or mechanical problem but a pilot error. The Commission was ordered not to publish their findings because it can unsettle the nation. Gagarin’s death inspired ideas that persisted for decades, some more plausible than others. One said Gagarin was drunk as he and Seryogin were joy-riding. Being jealous of the cosmonaut’s popularity communist leaders conspired against him was another. An UFO encounter caused the crash in fact Gagarin himself believed in them. Gagarin was poisoned by the CIA, or even Gagarin himself was a secret CIA agent. He actually survived, and was sent to a psychiatric asylum pending his real death in 1990. Some believe he’s still alive today, with his identity protected by intensive plastic surgery. The KGB did its own investigation into the crash, discounting every one. All this in the absence of Social media, six decades ago!
Yuri Gagarin born in the village of Klushino near Gzhatsk on March 9,1934 was a Russian cosmonaut who became the first human to be in outer space, winning the Space Race for Soviet Russia beating America exactly 60 years ago. Vostok 1, his capsule took him one orbit of Earth achieving a key milestone in the Space Race.
Radio communication between the launch control room and Gagarin on April 12, 1961, time 6:07 am
Korolev: ... LIFT-OFF! We wish you a good flight.
Gagarin: Poyekhali! [Off we go!] Dear friends Goodbye, until soon.
The Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, with Gagarin, the first human into space. The five engines fired until the first separation; the four side-boosters fell away, leaving the core. The core then separated while the rocket was in a orbital trajectory, and the upper stage took it to orbit. The upper stage finished firing, and separated from the spacecraft, which orbited the Earth for 108 minutes before returning to Earth in Kazakhstan.
An electrifying announcement made while he was still in space, the stunned Americans, the only other competitor in space race congratulated Moscow. This historic 108-minute flight, orbiting the Earth, made by 27 years old, hitherto unknown Yuri Gagarin the first human to be in space, became a global hero within hours.
NASA followed within a month got an astronaut into space as well when Alan Shepard became the first US astronaut see the Earth as one beautiful ball, but made only a brief suborbital ballistic flight. An American astronaut was able to reach the Earth’s orbit in the following year when John Glenn circled it in his Mercury capsule. Today there are more than 400,000 man-made objects in space, satellites to junk to an International Space Station. On April 12, 1961, there was just one: Yuri Gagarin in his Vostok 1. The truth about why he crashed may never be fully exposed, however, Gagarin is still among the stars.
The greatest virtue is to possess a practiced mind that can learn, little by little, to leave them behind altogether, all the visible and transitory things. The weak fix their love on one place in the world; the strong man extends his love universally; while the perfect one extinguishes all affections. 48 hours earlier, Gagarin was unknown; now he was arguably the most famous man on Earth. Gagarin embarked on a worldwide tour, greeted by cheering crowds wherever he went. On December 7, 1961, he visited us for an island-wide tour. Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike wanted a village school heroine who saved six lives from drowning, to garland him at the main reception. The Russian House in Colombo jointly with the Sri Lanka-Russia Friendship Society celebrated the event on 6th instant, where Magilin Nona, now an Octogenarian was a special guest who shared her experience.
The writer was sitting for O/Levels, but took time off to visit Panadura Town Hall the very next day at 8.30 am where College Science Society presented Gagarin with a plaque.
As someone who could travel between Earth and space, Gagarin travelled between the then closed worlds of East and West. Forgetting the ideological differences momentarily, Gagarin was hailed around the globe. One needs not go to space, but can visualize the world as a foreign land by shedding - I, me, mine and developing equanimity. Lots of humans in the past have seen it that way.
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