My space journey: one space suit, two heroes

By admin
28 June 2016

YOU intern Daniel De Carvalho blogs about his ‘travels through space’ at Gateway to Space: the Exhibition in Joburg.

"From pioneer to pioneer, I walk through Gateway to Space: the Exhibition, and stumble upon a bright orange space suit, used by the great Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin is known to be the first man in space and the Hero of the Soviet Union. Aboard the Vostok 1, Gagarin travelled to outer space in April 1961 and made a 108-minute orbital flight.

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Before his triumphant travels, Gagarin was a graduate from Saratov Industrial Technical School and then was drafted by the Soviet Army. He was then, on recommendation, sent to the First Chkalov Air Force Pilot’s School in Orenburg.

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While there he soloed in MiG-15 -- a fighter jet designed for the Soviet Union.

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Following his career in the Soviet Air Force, after a long and rigorous selection process for the Vostok programme, Yuri Gagarin was selected along with 19 other candidates to undergo training to become cosmonauts.

Now, like me, you are most probably thinking, ‘What is a cosmonaut? Isn’t it an astronaut?’ Well, as explains, the difference between an astronaut and a cosmonaut is who, or rather the representative country they completed training under.

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A cosmonaut is trained and certified under the Russian Space Agency (previously the Soviet Union) and an astronaut is trained and certified by NASA, ESA, CSA, or JAXA.

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The Vostok 1 was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The flight, lasting 108 minutes before re-entry and landing, was a historical feat for man-kind and from that day onwards, Yuri Gagarin was a household name.

After many years of service to his country, almost a full seven years from his ascent to the stars, Gagarin died when a routine training flight with his friend Vladimir Seyogin ended in a crash near the town of Kirzhach. Their bodies were recovered and then cremated. Their ashes now buried and in the walls of the Kremlin on Red Square in Moscow, Russia.

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Many great notable acts, like that of Yuri Gagarin, influence the lives of so many. Not including the way it influenced the space venture for mankind, his great feat influenced the dreams and ambitions of Valentina Tereshkova.

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova was the first woman to have flown in space -- although you'd never have guessed if you'd seen Tereshkova working in a textile factory before her ascent to the stars.

But she was also an amateur skydiver  -- which stood in her favour.

Following the example set by Yuri Gagarin, Tereshkova volunteered to join the Soviet Space programme despite her lack of experience as a pilot.

But, because of her having 126 parachute jumps under her belt, she was accepted into the programme as technology was not developed to the extent of spacecrafts being able to land safely, at the time. The pilots of the spacecraft would have to parachute from their capsules seconds before they hit the ground, after re-entry.

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In June 1963, having been selected from over 400 other applicants, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space, orbiting the earth 48 times in a space of three days.

Within a single flight, she logged more flight time than the combined times of all American astronauts who had flown before her. The Vostok 6 was marked as the first mission to carry a woman and the last Vostok Mission.

"If women can be railroad workers in Russia, why can’t they fly in space?" Tereshkova was once quoted as saying.

It wasn’t until 19 years later when the second woman, Svetlana Savitskaya, flew into space.

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Tereshkova, now 79 years old, is still alive and well and often attends many space-related events and political ventures. In 2013, she offered to, if the opportunity ever presented itself, go on a one-way trip to Mars!

It can take a flap of a butterfly wing to start a tornado. It can take a spark in your heart that can burn the eternal embers of inspiration and imagination. It can take one leap to taste the stars. Learning about Yuri and Valentina taught me there is no limit when it comes to dreaming."

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For space travels of your own, be sure not to miss out on Gateway to Space: The Exhibition at the Sandton Convention Centre. The exhibition will continue until the 31 July 2016. With an educational exhibition and a family-orientated play area, excitement is never too far away.

Tickets are available at Computicket

Sources: Gateway to Space ExhibitionNASA, Quora,,

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