On August 6, 1961, Major Gherman Stepanovitch Titov circled the earth 17 times, traveling at 18,000 miles an hour in an elliptical course which took him at maximum altitude about 160 miles into the stratosphere. For 25 hours and 18 minutes he traveled in regions until then unfathomed. In considerable discomfort he endured a prolonged state of weightlessness, hitherto known in all of human history only as a relatively fleeting experience to a handful of men. When Titov finally ejected himself from his four-and-one-half-ton vehicle and parachuted to earth he had set an all- time high mark in exploration.
There were a number of things of particular interest about the flight of Vostok II beyond the human daring and impressive technical ingenuity demanded for its accomplishment. One was its timing. A week later came the sealing of the border of East Berlin; 25 days later, on August 31, the Soviets announced their resumption of nuclear testing; 26 days later, on September 1, the conference of "nonaligned" nations convened in Belgrade. On that day, also, Major Titov, speaking to a large crowd of citizens of East Berlin on the Marx-Engels Platz, less than a mile from the border of West Berlin, pointedly remarked that the Soviet rockets that had propelled him into outer space could likewise deliver nuclear warheads to any point on the globe. Further, as almost his last action before being closed into his spaceship, Major Titov had dedicated his flight to the Twenty-second Congress of the Communist Party scheduled for October.
This constellation of events underlines with fresh immediacy the lessons already brought home by the history of Soviet space achievement since October 1957 when the first space satellite was placed in orbit. It gives force to the observation that outstanding technical achievements can be extraordinarily powerful in cementing a people's sense of solidarity, in augmenting its confidence, in reinforcing its pride, its verve, its sense of national identity. It also emphasizes anew how closely and skillfully the knot may be drawn between impressive technical organization, accomplishment and initiative in exploration
Loading, please wait...