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1961: Russian cosmonaut spends day in space

VIDEO : Official film of second round-the-earth Russian space flight (mute)

The USSR has launched its second cosmonaut into space just four months after Yuri Gagarin made his historic venture.

Major Gherman Titov, aged 25, has amazed the world by spending the whole day in orbit over the Earth aboard his one-person Vostok II spacecraft.

He has been sending messages to every continent saying "I feel splendid."

Sources in Moscow say he is due to land tomorrow morning after completing about 20 orbits around the globe.

Sleeping in space

At 1530 GMT he switched off radio communication so that he could get some sleep and turned it on again seven and a half hours later.

He is reported to have had a three-course meal for lunch and a substantial supper before turning in for the night.

Shortly before he was blasted into space from the Baikonur cosmodrome in the Kazakh Republic, he sent this message via the Tass news agency.

"It is difficult to express in words the feelings of happiness and pride which fill me. I have been entrusted with an honourable and responsible task."

He dedicated his flight to the 22nd congress of the Soviet Communist Party to be held in October, thanked the Soviet Government and its chairman Nikita Khrushchev. He also sent greetings to his "great friend" Yuri Gagarin.

Once in space, Major Titov sent another greeting to Mr Khrushchev to which the Soviet leader replied: "All Soviet people are happy at your successful flight and are proud of you. We are awaiting your landing. We embrace you, Khrushchev."

Major Titov spent his time doing exercises and monitoring the effects of weightlessness on his body.

Major Gagarin, the first man in space, has sent a telegram congratulating his compatriot. The two men trained for two years together before Gagarin was chosen to fly into space on Vostok I on 12 April this year.

The response from the US on Russia's achievement has been muted. The United States Space Agency recorded the flight of Vostok II as "an important technical achievement".

In Context
Major Gherman Titov returned to Earth safely the next day having spent 25 hours in space and completed 17 orbits.

His achievement was a blow to the United States in the space race between the superpowers. Alan Shepard became the first US astronaut in May 1961, but John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth in February 1962.

Titov became an idol for young Soviets and received the Hero of the Soviet Union Medal and the Order of Lenin.

He became a test pilot but never returned to space. He later worked in a space research institute and in the Soviet Defence Ministry.

In 1995 he was elected to the lower house of the Russian Parliament, the Duma, as a member of the Communist Party. He wrote several books on the subject of space travel.

He was found dead in his sauna on 21 September 2000 at the age of 65. Some reports said he had died from carbon monoxide poisoning, others that he had had a heart attack.


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