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April 13, 1961

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

This document was made possible with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)


April 13, 1961

Top Secret

Copy Nº 1


Questions to Yu. A. Gagarin[1]

Answers of Yu. A. Gagarin

(During the State Commission session of 13.04.1961)


Question: When the ship was in the shadow of the Earth and the orientation system was turned on, was the motion of the stars visible from the instrument toward your feet? Could you see that?


Answer: Yes, it was exactly like that.


Question: Could you hear the operation of the valves of the orientation system?


Answer: No, I couldn’t hear either the operation of the valves or the operation of the nozzles of the orientation system.


Question: Could you understand well and feel the normal operation of the orientation system when the pressure dropped if you could not hear the orientation nozzles or valves?


Answer: Because both systems were operating, at that time such type of criteria as the drop in pressure was not a good indicator of the correct operation of the orientation system. And I was questioning whether it was working correctly.


Question: Was it easy to get your bearings from the Vzor?


Answer: I think that it is easy to get yoru bearings using Vzor, [and] you can easily get your bearings over water and over land.


Question: When in the shadow of the Earth, is it possible to observe the surface through Vzor or does it blend together and it is impossible to distinguish?


Answer: When [flying] over the dark side of the Earth, I did not see the Earth, neither the horizon nor the Earth, because there was nothing to tie into. The horizon could be seen in a distorted form. Additionally, there is no visible sharp transition from the darkness of the Earth to the darkness of the sky. Only stars, but, even so, it was difficult to determine which ones they were.


Question: How did regular clocks with regular clock mechanisms work, both the ones on the dashboard and your wristwatch?


Answer: The clocks worked perfectly, normally, as set, they’re still running that way. There is one more watch that Pavel Romanovich POPOVICH has.


Question: Did you use the onboard chart or the checklist and did you find it useful?


Answer: I believe it is necessary. There is no point in thinking and trying to remember because up there you have to be making tape recordings and reports.


Question: We have developed a significant amount of instructions for communications and for the cosmonaut. As a result of your report, I am getting an impression that overall these instructions were developed correctly. Do I understand it right?


Answer: Yes, I believe that the instructions that were developed by us are very correct. There may be some very small changes that we will need to make. And the assumptions that we made, all proved correct. I believe that the instructions were written correctly, that all provisions of these instructions correspond to what I was observing in practice, and they correspond to the work of the system of this spacecraft.


Question: Did the Sun by any chance enter into the ring of the Vzor in the active zone?


Answer: During powered flight it did not enter the ring of the Vzor. Through the Vzor I could see the Earth, the Sun was ahead, to the right, and higher. It then was moving along the porthole to the left and to the back.


Question: I would like you to describe for us in somewhat more detail the sensation of weightlessness. What was different about it?


Answer: The difference is that, when the person is in such suspended state, he doesn’t sit in the chair, doesn’t lie on his back, but the feeling, the sensation is as if you are lying on your chest. The coordination of motions is fully preserved. I was eating, drinking water, writing, reporting, and I was using the telegraph key. Therefore, in my opinion, the length of the weightlessness that I experienced does not affect the coordination or the productivity, nor it does not make it more difficult.


Question: Can you tell us, please, what you were able to notice with respect to the change in the climate conditions?


Answer: I would like to report about this separately and therefore I didn’t include it in my report. Throughout the duration of [my] stay on the ship, towards the end of the work of the braking engine unit [TDU], the air humidity increased from 65% to 71%, the arrows on the instruments were moving to the red line, and the tip of this line was somewhat visible. The air temperature when I boarded the craft was 19 degrees, and it increased to 21-22 degrees according to the instrument. The air pressure in the instrument compartment when I boarded [the spacecraft], was 1.1 atm., but by the time the TDU was started, the air pressure in the compartment became 1.25 atm.


Question: Did you try to open the porthole of the first hatch?


Answer: I did try to open the porthole when I was still at the pad, but I couldn’t reach it, so it was closed for the entire time.


Question: I would like to know the following: the transition from elevated gravity (during the G-forces state) to weightlessness, did you feel it?


Answer: Yes I did. The G-force during the operation of the third stage was 0.3-0.4 in all, so here on Earth it would be a mere half the weight. And this transition to weightlessness was very gradual. I did feel the separation of the ship and the end of the acceleration, but there was no difficulty.


Question: And what about the transition from weightlessness to increased gravity, did you feel it?


Answer: I did feel the transition from weightlessness to increased gravity – a very gradual one. The G-forces increase very gradually, very slowly. Especially until 1G, where the increase takes about two minutes. And then approximately in the first segment of descent the G-forces grow somewhat faster, and then very quickly they reach about six or seven, and then go to 10 and even somewhat higher. It was increasing quite slowly, I must say, but then decreased rapidly.


Question: Did you try to make abrupt movements in the conditions of weightlessness when you were doing work there?


Answer: In this spacesuit abrupt head movements are plainly impossible because the head is inside the helmet. Otherwise I tried to wriggle. There were no illusions. Everything was spinning and gyrating.


Question: Did the porthole system and everything you had there provide enough visibility, so that you could consciously and definitively enough observe local objects, or was it not enough?


Answer: The answer to this question is – the system that is used for observation is, of course, not enough for these purposes, since the angle of view of Vzor is seven degrees. And the angle of view out of the right porthole is small, because it is located far away. So if Vzor or this porthole is directed strictly to some segment of the Earth perpendicular to it, then it is very difficult to find a reference point on the surface because the Earth is moving fast, and suffice it to say that in five seconds it crosses from one end of Vzor to the other. However, if the observation is conducted at an angle, i.e., when the craft is as if lying on its side, then a large, expansive area is visible, and then you can find a reference point.  


Question: Can you tell us please which segment of the powered flight you considered the roughest from the point of view of vibration loads on the organism.


Answer: From the point of view of vibrational loads on the organism it goes like this: up to 70 seconds, the frequency is higher and the amplitude is smaller, and after 70 seconds, approximately halfway through the operation of the second stage, it’s the opposite – the frequency is lower and amplitude is higher.


Question: Which segment of the [orbit] insertion do you consider the most difficult for a human organism?


Answer: I consider the most difficult for a human organism the segment at the end, in the second half of the operation of the first stage and in the second half of the operation of the second stage when the G-forces are significant. And this vibration was of low frequency and with significant amplitude.


Question: Television cameras were turning on and off in accordance with the program, and the lighting was changing. Did you observe this phenomenon?


Answer: I did observe this phenomenon. But I observed when the television light was turned on. And it was never turned off until I moved into the shadow. And there I turned it off by myself, after I entered the shadow. This light was just interfering with what I was doing. I turned it off, and then I turned off the lights all over the craft.


Question: You had some interruptions in communications. Which type of communication systems are better: UKV [UHF] or KV [HF]?


Answer: Well, it’s hard for me to make judgements about the operation of UKV and KV communication systems. All I can say is that the UKV connection was very reliable and worked well from the time of the launch, when flying over Kolpashevo, as well as over Yelizovo. And the connection was very bad via shortwave until I reached the apogee. It’s hard to say which communication system is better, but the UKV worked well – I could hear well and I could be heard well.


Question: After TDU was turned off, how long did it take for the stars to cross the Vzor screen, as well as go across other portholes?


Answer: After TDU was turned off, stars literally zoomed across Vzor as little streaks. The movement was very fast.


Question: What was the approximate period of visibility of the Earth through Vzor?


Answer: The period was approximately 15 seconds.


Question: Was there a loosening of the restraining belts after you reached the orbit?


Answer: After I reached the orbit, the restraining belts were loose.


Question: Did you try to sit down?


Answer: I did sit down. I grabbed on one and then the other handle and sat down. I tried to reach the radio but I couldn’t tune it because there was a high level of noise in the cabin and I couldn’t hear the speaker. After the second command was completed, I tightened the belt and the shoulder straps. And after the separation I was abruptly pulled into the seat by the belts. There was a pop inside the helmet for the visor to close.


Question: So you said that you felt the angular vibrations. Can you compare your sensations with, let’s say, flying on an airplane in different conditions?


Answer: The criteria for an evaluation of the vibrations is the following – irrespective of the fact that one cannot see the horizon fully through Vzor and it is distorted, the angular vibrations were detectable. Via Vzor the Earth was moving strictly by the reference marks and lateral deviations are very noticeable. Pitch deflections were very difficult to identify.


Question: Does it make sense, while your memory is still fresh, to review the oscillograms, to compare your own sensations with them?


Answer: I don’t know what I can gather from these oscillograms. I can only judge based on my own sensations. I remember everything that I have reported, and, most probably, I will remember it for a long time. Maybe it makes sense to look [at them] after all, I don’t know.


Question: What were your sensations while swallowing food and water in the conditions of weightlessness? Are they different from those on Earth?


Answer: When swallowing water or food I didn’t feel anything special. It works the same way. I didn’t have any difficulty swallowing. It is the same up there as it is on Earth – food travels through the throat into the stomach and so on.


Question: During the descent when you were seeing a crimson light, were there any changes in the air from the point of view of smell? Did the quality of air change?


Answer: I didn’t answer this question right away because I was afraid not to be objective. It seems to me that during these extreme heat fluxes a certain smell appears, the air becomes somewhat unusual, like fumes. But you can’t really call it fumes. But there definitely was some sort of smell and taste. Then, after the heat fluxes passed, the smell changed a little. The level of oxygen was the same. The concentration of oxygen was the same. Maybe this is subjective, I can’t say.


Question: Was a drop in pressure noticeable after the separation?


Answer: I did not feel any drop in pressure. [My] organism was in a state of stress after all. You are either watching the extreme heat fluxes, or the horizon, then the G-effects start, so the drop in pressure happens completely unnoticeable.


Question: In light of your newly acquired experience in the effects of long-term weightlessness on the organism, do you find that a longer-term stay in the conditions of weightlessness is possible for a cosmonaut who has never been in orbit, i.e., who is inexperienced?


Answer: Based on my personal experience, a flight in the conditions of weightlessness may be of an even longer duration, but the person needs to be occupied in this flight, has to be actively working, and the suspension system needs to be more flexible so that the person doesn’t have a feeling that he is constantly hanging on straps. And the person, in my opinion, can stay there for a long period of time. It seems to me, that he can tolerate a 24-hour period.


Question: Did you notice an increase of temperature throughout the flight?


Answer: The increase in temperature from 19 degrees to 21-22 degrees based on the instrument indicator, but physically I myself didn’t feel anything. The ventilation was good.


Question: And the ventilator – does it make a lot of noise?


Answer: The ventilator makes a lot of noise, it’s disrupting.


Question: Did you need a spacesuit?


Answer: The spacesuit in this flight worked well. I could have done without a spacesuit. But what if anything happens? You feel worse with it, but in case of emergency it will certainly be needed. But it has to be additionally worked on. During all this time, not a single craft has had a loss of cabin pressure.


Question: This is a question regarding manual control. What do you think, as a pilot and as a cosmonaut – would you be able to manage it manually? I don’t mean from the psychological point of view, but in terms of instruments?


Answer: I believe I would be able to control it and could very well land by myself. Based on what? I felt well, I had good reactions, the performance of the organism was also good at this time, the ship’s controls were functioning well, the processes were well-rehearsed and worked well with manual controls, orienting using Vzor works, so I believe that the orienting can be very securely implemented. I mentioned in my report that you can orient both over sea and over land. Even in my field of view, when a distorted horizon enters the outer ring of Vzor, I could see well. The spacecraft can be oriented well using the direction of movement of surface reference points in the Vzor system.  


Question: During the deceleration, throughout the segment when TDU is engaged, does Earth run from your feet to the instruments or did you not pay attention to this?


Answer: The Earth was moving not from my feet to the instruments, but somewhat to the left from my feet, into the corner.


Question: At what angle?


Answer: It was moving at an angle of approximately 30 degrees. In the beginning of the orienting, when the control was automatic, the Sun was low over the horizon, and the orienting was precise, like with manual control. The most important thing is that the Earth was moving exactly along the index marks in the very beginning, just after it completed orientation.


Question: All objects were moving along the index marks?


Answer: All objects were moving strictly along the index marks.


Question: So you would be able to select the direction, but how well would you be able to orient and choose the correct location using Vzor?


Answer: You can choose the correct location using the globus [automatic ground position indicator] depending on the quality of the resolution of the globus. You can make it within a 300-kilometer deviation.  


Question: But if you had a camera would you have been able to take pictures?


Answer: I might very well have, if I had a color film. I would be able to take pictures of that blue halo around the Earth, then the orange color after coming from the shadow, very beautiful, then the rotation of the Earth, and when the third stage was engaged and after that. The photographs would have been very illustrative. I haven’t been able to see those colors on Earth.


Question: And what about the bright coloration?


Answer: It seemed to me that only the surface of the water was gray, but the surface of the Earth was regular, the forest looked green, like the taiga.


Question: What is your estimation, what are the minimum sizes of objects you can safely make out with naked eye, without instruments, without photographs? Can you look and see: “Here’s a road. I can see it. But I cannot see a footpath. Here’s a train. I can see it. But a car, for example, I cannot see?”


Answer: Well, I did not see any trains, nor did I see any cars. But rivers and tributaries were visible. Regular farmland looked like squares, plowed and not plowed. This was visible from a height, when the third stage was in operation, and at the end of the third stage.


Question: Let’s say you are flying over a city. Can you draw a layout of the streets?


Answer: I did not fly over cities. And in any case there probably were no cities like that. It seems to me that one can observe objects maybe like 100 meters in size. But let’s say islands, tributaries of large rivers, they are not so big in my opinion, these tributaries, but they can be seen well.


Question: Can you tell us how the orienting was maintained during the operation of TDU?


Answer: During the operation of the TDU orienting was maintained well, the spinning stopped, everything was motionless until the end of [its] work.


Question: You were describing that you were feeling how the rocket was vibrating prior to the launch. Were you rocked a couple of times?


Answer: Of course it is difficult for me to judge, because I didn’t see what was being retracted. Prior to the launch I was rocked a couple of times, insignificantly, only a little bit, but I could hear when the arms were being retracted.


Question: Can you give us your opinion about the nature of the work of the third stage engine, about the vibration of the ship – were there vibrations or not?


Answer: The third stage worked well. Yes, there were vibrations. The frequency of vibrations was high. The amplitude of the vibrations was not large. I did notice the nature of the vibrations, specifically the nature of vibrations of the third stage.


Questions and answers were written down based on the stenographic record and elaborated.


Major-General of Aviation



Archival source: APRF, f. 3, op. 47, d. 278, ll. 165-174. Original. Signatures are autographs.


[1] This document constitutes an addendum to Gagarin’s report at the State Commission after the space flight.

[2] Leonid Ivanovich Goreglyad (1915-1986) was assistant to the deputy commander-in-chief of the Air Force for combat preparations.

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

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Selected, edited, and annotated by Asif Siddiqi. Translated by Gary Goldberg and Angela Greenfield.


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