It’s sixty years since Yuri Gagarin landed back on Earth. He was found wandering around the fields in Smelovka, close to the Volga River. At first, the world heard how he landed in the Vostok-1 capsule but later, we learned he parachuted clear. Ejection from the capsules was how all Vostok program landings were designed. The rules needed to be changed so that a flight record did not require that the vehicle and pilot arrived simultaneously. It was the Cold War. These things really mattered. And the Soviets had put a man in space first. So they allowed the parachute story prevail until they couldn’t deny it. And the rules were rewritten and Gagarin’s trip stands as the first.
Gagarin’s trip from Baikonur to Smelkova took about 106 minutes. He orbited the globe once and his trip elevated him to heroic status. To my mind, the most significant thing about Gagarin is that he was the first human to see his home planet from somewhere else. He was therefore the first to have seen our world without country and political boundaries.
Gagarin has come to symbolise an aspect of human curiosity that often brings unforeseeable benefits. The Wright brothers had flown for 12 seconds and look where that took humanity. That first space flight opened the door to a space economy that today is worth about €500 billion per annum and yet we haven’t really left the planet.
While the 106 minute flight hasn’t opened up package holidays to Mars, there have been any number of companies offering flights around the Moon. Book now if you’ll be around sometime after 2023.
Budgeting for the trip is tough. The $20-million dollar excursion to the International Space Station is proving very popular. And that’s about all we have as a price guide. You might set aside an amount based on scaling the trip by distance. That’s about $180 million per head. Round trip, no need for a suitcase, all meals included but it might be short of the normal holiday refreshments.
I think I’ll stick to the planned walk to Rome. Sure, it’ll take a lot longer but frankly, I think the hike represents much better value for money.