The secret of the space suit of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin

Photos taken of Yuri Gagarin returning to Earth after the space flight showed him only wearing a regular warm suit, so what happened?

In the presence of the members of the state committee after the successful space flight and became a legend, Yuri Gagarin did not forget to mention a very important detail: 'I took a few pictures. At that time I removed the outer layer. I was wearing only blue heat-resistant suits - no photos were taken with the orange and gray layers and helmet. The space suit has been put away'.

And the truth is what he said. In all post-landing photos, only the cosmonaut is seen wearing a warm jacket similar to a regular vatnik (warm suit worn by prisoners in Soviet labor camps). wear). In fact, Gagarin was wearing a V-3 heat suit under a space suit. But the space suit does not appear in the photos at all. So why did he need to hide that suit?

Picture 1 of The secret of the space suit of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin.

Controversy about space suits

There has been a fierce debate surrounding whether the first man in space should wear a space suit. What kind of clothes would he wear on such a perilous journey?

That may sound silly, but some experts have given serious consideration to putting Yuri Gagarin into the fray in a heat-resistant suit and nothing more. The suit could protect Gagarin in the event of a landing in the water or against the cold; but it will be useless in case the spacecraft is depressurized in space.

In February 1960, the designers of the Vostok spacecraft realized that they were having serious problems with the overall mass and they were forced to find a way to reduce weight and remove as much equipment as possible. However, many believe that the chances of spacecraft depressurizing are very low, so a spacesuit would only add unnecessary weight.

Controversy over whether astronauts needed a spacesuit continued until the summer of 1960, and finally the "father of Soviet spacecraft" Sergey Korolev made the final decision. Korolev says he is willing to 'sacrifice 500kg of the ship's weight' if the spacesuit with life support systems can be ready by the end of that year.

With only 8 months left before the flight, Soviet engineers created the first space suit in history - SK-1.

The first space suit in history

Engineers chose to take the shortest route, using the Su-9 Vorkuta fighter pilot suit as the foundation, in which the life support system and oxygen supply are important components.

SK-1 is a 'soft' space suit, composed of multiple layers of materials. The first layer consists of lavsan and polyethylene terephthalate – a thermoplastic. It was the newest material at the time, developed by the Academy of Sciences in 1949. Lavsan was used for reinforcement (this material is now used to make plastic bottles).

The second layer is made of rubber. The outermost layer that everyone can see is the orange waterproof layer. Orange is used to make rescue efforts easier, in case the astronauts have to exit the cabin and land with a parachute.

The helmet is fixed, with a pressure sensor attached. In the event of a depressurization, the helmet will automatically close, while the hose used to conditioned the inside of the suit with the air in the spacecraft will automatically shut off. In that case, the air is supplied from the attached oxygen tank.

Of course, spacewalking in such a suit is completely impossible, but astronauts can stay inside the spacecraft's cabin for up to 5 hours without assistance from the spacecraft's systems. ship.

The SK-1 was designed specifically with the measurements of the first team of Soviet cosmonauts, weighing 20 kg. Astronauts cannot wear this suit without assistance. There are specific instructions for dressing order such as foot to hand and other steps. However, the wearer can remove the suit without assistance.

Gagarin wears several layers of clothing: a base layer, followed by insulation, a layer of lavsan, followed by a rubber layer, and finally - an orange peel. But what is the reason why the Soviet Union introduced strict regulations on hiding this suit from camera lenses and camcorders?

The man on the secret mission

The answer simply needs to be kept secret. The space suit is considered a great invention of the Soviet Union. At the height of the space race with the US, the materials and methods of making the spacesuits were a state secret. The orange outer shell is designed to hide the inner layers from the public eye.

Picture 2 of The secret of the space suit of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin
Ota Bakhramov is one of the designers of the space suit.

Yuri Gagarin was ordered to take every possible step to remove the spacesuit by hiding it or destroying it entirely, wherever the landing took place. To make sure this was possible, one of the space suit designers, Ota Bakhramov, was dispatched to assist. On April 12, 1961, only a small group was sent on a secret mission.

According to the plan, Bakhramov took the suit from Gagarin or the leader of the rescue team right at the landing point. That day, the engineer still appeared in some photos with Gagarin. The tall man in a soft felt hat and long coat made the townspeople of Engels think he was a security guard or bodyguard, tasked with protecting the national hero's safety. But the truth is that Bakhramov was only there to collect the space suit.