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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Yuri Gagarin & the First Human Space Flight

Featuring translated Soviet documents selected, curated, and annotated by Asif Siddiqi, this collection provides an extraordinary peek into the preparations and implementation of the flight of Yuri Gagarin, the first Soviet cosmonaut, who flew into space in his Vostok spaceship on April 12, 1961. For context and analysis of the sources, see the April 2021 essay by Siddiqi on the Sources & Methods blog, “Declassified Sources on Gagarin.” See also the Digital Archive collection on the Space Race. (Image: Photograph of the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin at a press conference during his visit to Finland, July 1961. Courtesy of the Finnish Museum of Photography.)

  • June 26, 1958

    Letter, A. Bakulev et al. to Comrade N.S. Khrushchev

    Proposal from biomedicine specialists addressed to Nikita Khrushchev to create a new scientific-research institution dedicated solely to study the biomedical aspects of space exploration. The authors ask that a unit from the Air Force’s existing Institute of Aviation Medicine be detached and made into a new institute for space medicine.

  • September 16, 1958

    Letter, Sergei Korolev to Comrade K.N. Rudnev

    Proposal from Sergei Korolev submitted to the State Committee for Defense Technology to develop a spy satellite with a cosmonaut on board.

  • December 02, 1958

    Letter, M. Khrunichev et al to the CPSU CC

    Proposal submitted to the Central Committee (CC) by a number of industry leaders, scientists, and military officials proposing to strengthen biomedical research to support a future human spaceflight.

  • January 05, 1959

    Decree of the CPSU Central Committee and USSR Council of Ministers on Biomedical Research

    Central Committee and Council of Ministers Decree titled “On Strengthening Scientific-Research Work in the Field of Biomedical Support to Spaceflight” that transformed the Institute of Aviation Medicine to the Institute of Aviation and Space Medicine.

  • May 22, 1959

    Decree of the CPSU Central Committee and USSR Council of Ministers on Vostok

    Decree of the Central Committee and Council of Ministers officially titled “On the Object Vostok,” approving the development of the Vostok reconnaissance satellite.

  • June 15, 1960

    Proposal from D. Ustinov et al to the CPSU CC on Cosmonaut Training Center

    Proposal to the Central Committee from industrial leaders and the scientific community on creating a cosmonaut training center and establishing regulations on the professional activities of cosmonauts.

  • August 03, 1960

    Decree from N.S. Khrushchev and M. Smirtyukov on Cosmonaut Training Center

    USSR Council of Ministers Decree entitled “The Preparation of a Manned Spaceflight,” approved full-on preparations for a human spaceflight.

  • September 10, 1960

    Proposal from D. Ustinov et al to the CPSU CC on Human Spaceflight

    Formal proposal to Central Committee from a group of industrial leaders, military officials, scientists, and designers to carry out the first human spaceflight by December 1960.

  • September 27, 1960

    Top Secret Service and Character References for Core Group of Six Cosmonauts Training for the First Human Spaceflight

    Brief service and political character references for the core group of six cosmonauts training for the first human spaceflight.

  • October 11, 1960

    Decree of the CPSU Central Committee and USSR Council of Ministers on the Object Vostok-3A

    Decree issued by the Central Committee and the Council of Ministers entitled “On the Object Vostok-3A” approving the plan to carry out a human spaceflight in December 1960.

  • November 10, 1960

    Report from D. Ustinov et al on Preparations for Two Test Flights of the Vostok-A Prototype

    Report from industrial leaders, scientists, and designers to the Central Committee on preparations for two test flights of the Vostok-A prototype before human space mission on Vostok-3A variant

  • January 25, 1961

    Report of the Results of the Examinations held with Cosmonaut Students of the Air Force’s Cosmonaut Training Center

    Results of examinations held with the core group of cosmonaut trainees at the Cosmonaut Training Center.

  • March 24, 1961

    Report from D. Ustinov et al to the CPSU CC on Preparations to Launch the Vostok-3A

    Report to Central Committee from industrial leaders, military leaders, scientists, and designers on preparations to launch a final automated test flight before actual piloted spaceflight.

  • March 30, 1961

    Report from D. Ustinov et al to the CPSU CC regarding the Preparation and Launch of a Manned Spacecraft

    Memo from representatives of industry, the scientific community, the armed forces, the KGB, and the space designer community to the Central Committee report on final preparations for piloted spaceflight and asking for permission to launch a spaceship with a human on board.

  • April 03, 1961

    Excerpt from Ninutes Nº 322 of the CC Presidium of April 3, 1961, 'On the Launch of the Satellite-ship'

    Final Presidium (or Politburo) decree, entitled “On the Launch of a Space Satellite-Ship,” approving the launch of a spaceship with a human on board.

  • April 11, 1961

    Transcribed Notes Dictated by Nikita Khrushchev while at Pitsunda on the Eve of Gagarin’s Flight

    Transcribed notes dictated by Nikita Khrushchev while at Pitsunda on the eve of Gagarin’s flight, on April 11, 1961.

  • April 13, 1961

    Questions to Yu. A. Gagarin and Answers of Yu. A. Gagarin (During the State Commission Session of 13.04.1961)

    Transcript of the State Commission’s interview with Yuriy Gagarin after his mission.

  • April 13, 1961

    Top Secret Report of Major Yuri Gagarin

    Full Report of Yury Gagarin to the State Commission after his mission, on April 13, 1961.

  • April 26, 1961

    Excerpt from Minutes Nº 325 of the April 26, 1961, Meeting of the CPSU CC Presidium, 'On the Further Commemoration and Popularization of the First Flight of a Soviet Man in Space'

    Presidium (or Politburo) decree on publicity for the flight of Yuriy Gagarin.

  • May 03, 1961

    Preliminary Report on the Results of the Launch of the Third Vostok-3a Satellite-Ship with Pilot Yu. A. Gagarin on Board (Accomplished On April 12, 1961)

    Preliminary Report analyzing the results of the Vostok flight of Yuriy Gagarin, prepared by the design bureau in charge of the flight, OKB-1, based in Kaliningrad north of Moscow.