Remembering Gagarin, remember Ukrainians who made his flight possible

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Korolyov and Gagarin | Королев и Гагарин
S. Korolyov and Yu. Gagarin

On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly in space. He did not get there by jumping on a trampoline, though. He was carried by a modified R-7 ICBM, called Vostok. And like any piece of equipment, Vostok had specific names standing behind it.

The R-7 was designed by Sergey Korolyov, who was born in Zhytomyr, Ukraine and was officially considered a Ukrainian. Its main engines RD-107 and RD-108 were designed by Valentin Glushko, who was born in Odesa, Ukraine and also was officially considered a Ukrainian. Both Korolyov and Glushko were arrested in 1938 and sentenced to 8 years of labour camp under false charges of treason. Yes, Russians arrested and abused Ukrainians 80 years ago. Just like they do now.

Korolyov’s passport; his ethnicity is indicated as Ukrainian
Korolyov’s passport; his ethnicity is indicated as Ukrainian
An extract from the minutes of the NKVD special meeting, which sentenced Korolyov to 8 years in a labour camp
An extract from the minutes of the NKVD special meeting, which sentenced Korolyov to 8 years in a labour camp
Korolyov in NKVD prison
Glushko
An extract from the minutes of the NKVD special meeting, which sentenced Glushko to 8 years in a labour camp

Ukrainian engineers also developed most of the critical systems of the Vostok launch vehicle, of the same-named spacecraft, of the launch complex, and of the ground segment. The optical aiming system was developed by the “Arsenal” plant located in Kyiv, the inertial guidance system were manufactured by the “Communar” plant in Kharkiv, elements of the guidance system were manufactured by Kharkiv plant for electric instruments and by Taras Shevchenko Kharkiv instrument-building plant, the voice recorder was developed by the Research institute of electromechanical instruments also located in Kyiv, the telemetry system was manufactured by the Lviv radio-technical plant “Izmeritel” (Measurer), and the parachute system was tested in Crimea, near Feodosia.

Ukrainian cities involved in Gagarin’s flight. Most of them are now being bombed by Russia
Ukrainian cities involved in Gagarin’s flight. Most of them are now being bombed by Russia

Also, one of 11 ground measurement posts was located in Crimea near Simferopol. The transporter-erector and the service cabin were manufactured by the Novokramatorsk machine-building plant, the fuelling systems were manufactured by Sumy machine-building plant, by Mariupol heavy machine-building plant, and by Kharkiv plant of technological equipment. The cosmonauts were delivered to the launch pad in a specially modified (to accommodate cosmonauts wearing spacesuits) LAZ-695B bus, produced by the Lviv bus factory.

Thus, Gagarin’s flight can not be celebrated as an exclusively Russian achievement. Without Ukrainian contribution, the only way for Gagarin to get to space would be to trampoline real hard.

Aleksei Parnowski | alphacentauri

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