The Man Who Fell to Earth
Extracted from the book: The one year book of amazing stories
Permission by Robert Petterson
What the Russians couldn’t do with their missiles, they tried to accomplish with rockets. The Cold War was heating up, and the Soviets were looking to score a propaganda coup. So they rushed Sputnik 1 to the launch pad in 1957.
Yuri Gagarin was on of twenty cosmonauts who underwent rigorous training, including brutal sessions in centrifuges to prepare for the g-forces of a rocket launch. The cosmonaut arrived at the Launchpad feeling a mixture of excitement and fear on April 12, 1961. The Soviets had rushed their schedule to stay ahead of the Americans, and their space capsule was little more than a metal cone perched precariously atop the third stage of an R-7 rocket. The Soviet scientists knew that it had serious design flaws.
Gagarin was only five feet tall, but he was twisted like a pretzel inside that bucket of bolts space capsule. The launch was successful as the capsule was catapulted into space. But reentry was a terrifying fee fall. The spaceship disintegrated as cables failed, insulating panels flew off, and bolts shook loose. Gagarin had been ordered to stay with the craft so the Soviets could claim the altitude record. Yet he know the record would be forfeit if the pilot wasn’t alive. At 4.3 miles above the Earth, he parachuted out of the capsules death spiral. He landed onto a Russian farmyard alive.
The Soviets lied to the world when they announced that Gagarin had landed his spacecraft. But he knew the truth: he had barely made it back alive. The amazing story of the man who fell from the sky reminds us that, without Gagarin’s first manned spaceflight, a lagging United States might not have been motivated to work harder and put American astronauts on the moon. We can become better when others defeat us – even if they cheat like the Soviets did. In victory, we celebrate. But in defeat, we evaluate.
Winners are not people who never fail, but those who never quit.
Be Safe in the Region of Risk
Decoding Human Factors, LLC