"I hope you will never see this letter" Yuri Gagarin's note to his wife and daughters in 1961

Originally published at: "I hope you will never see this letter" Yuri Gagarin's note to his wife and daughters in 1961 | Boing Boing


a touching, thoughtful letter that astronauts and test pilots the world over have also probably written. must have been slightly terrifying to be the first into the great unknown of space. glad it never needed to be delivered.


Unfortunately for Yuri he did end up getting killed in an unrelated crash during a test flight in a MiG-15 a few years later. Being a test pilot is dangerous, whether for aircraft or spacecraft.

On the subject of undelivered speeches:


Just the right mix of Russian fatalism and technocratic Soviet optimism.


This was a nice read.

But I couldn’t help but notice this bit:

But it sometimes happens that a man falls and breaks his neck with no reason at all. Something may happen here too.

Apologies for souring an otherwise nice article, but it’s a bit ironic given related news we occasionally hear from Russia nowadays.


It very nearly ended in disaster. After firing its retrorockets for reentry, the capsule and service module did not cleanly separate and remained attached by a bundle of wires. They remained attached during reentry causing the spacecraft to spin violently. Gagarin went through very powerful G-forces before the wires burned through and Vostok returned to Earth.

He was an astonishingly brave man - what a tragedy he never got to fly in space again before his early death.

And what a contrast he is to the miserable Soviet system that covered up a key part of his mission, claiming he had landed in the capsule when in actuality he ejected and came down on parachute - all so they could claim an inconsequential aviation record.


(Ah. So, I didn’t imagine it. :blush:)

And perhaps Russian pragmatism and caution? Assuming that the letter could have fallen into the wrong hands, words of fealty to communism and such would provide a political fig leaf for his family if needed. 1961. Stalinism was still strong even sans Stalin, and if Yuri’s death led to some ill-advised outburst from some family member, well…


As someone who lived in Manchester, UK in the sixties, I remember that on 12 July 1961, Gagarin flew up to Manchester from London as a guest of the Amalgamated Union of Foundry Workers, who invited him to the Metropolitan-Vickers engineering plant in Trafford Park, the city’s industrial hub at that time. (Before he was an airman and a cosmonaut Gagarin trained as an apprentice foundry worker at the Lyubertsy Steel Plant in Moscow.) The streets of Manchester were lined with cheering crowds and though (being a schoolboy) I couldn’t join them it was like a superstar had come to our rainy city.


At the Cosmophere and Space Center where I worked while at the JUCO in Hutchinson. KS - we had a lot of Russian stuff, including this awesome Lunkahod. Oddly my direct supervisor at fist was sorta weird anti-government guy (in a good way) who supported my interest in the Russian stuff, and together with my access to Adobe Illustrator and me drawing his portrait from a grainy photo, we had his face on this little map of the museum that I made and he copied for use to give out.

Looking back on it - super odd choice to not have either an American on the front, or maybe both an American and a Russian.

Even now, they have even more Russian artifacts, including Vostok, Voskhod, and Soyuz (IIRC - don’t quote me, I may have those details wrong.)

Also, I know on the American side, the early astronauts signed dozens of stamped envelopes, as an “insurance policy” their widows could sell if something went wrong. :frowning:


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