Gagarin’s Golden Anniversary: The High Price Paid By the First Man in SpacePosted: April 12, 2011
But consider too what it meant to go first — before Shepard, before Glenn, before any other human breached the boundary of space. Even serious scientists could not say for sure that sustained weightlessness wouldn’t cause blood pressure to spike, the heart to lose its natural rhythms, the vestibular system to come completely unsprung, the eyes to swell and — yes — explode. The cosmonauts themselves could not say if they could survive the possible 10-G load they’d experience on re-entry — a force making the average 150-lb. (68 kg) man feel like he weighed 1,500 lb. (680 kg). What’s more, nobody could say if the giant A-1 rocket with the four strap-on boosters that carried Gagarin to orbit wouldn’t blow up along the way — something that rockets had a nasty tendency to do in the early days of the space program. Even in the later days, no launch vehicle was ever considered entirely trustworthy or safe.