The success of Shepard and Grissom’s hops into space boosted American morale, and NASA began making preparations to launch a man into orbit atop an Atlas rocket. But on 6 August, 1961, the Soviet Union sprang another surprise on the Americans: it put another man into orbit and this cosmonaut made, not one, but 17 orbits around Earth, in a flight lasting over a day.
The cosmonaut was 26-year-old Gherman Titov, and the name of his spacecraft was Vostok 2.
Titov ate, worked and slept in orbit, and unlike Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1, took manual control of the spacecraft for a short while. He also took pictures of Earth with a movie camera. A Soviet official commented: “Gagarin was the first to fly in space, but Titov was the first to live there.”
One of the problems of staying in space for a long time surfaced during Titov’s flight: he experienced space sickness. He brought up whatever he ate, and he felt nauseous every time he turned his head. It was a sickness brought about by weightlessness, and it was a problem that space travellers would face for decades afterwards. However, Titov’s flight showed that man could withstand long periods of weightlessness.
During re-entry the instrument module of Vostok remained attached to the re-entry vehicle by straps, and Titov went through the same ordeal that Gagarin had done till the heat of friction burned the straps separating the two modules. Titov ejected from the capsule and descended by parachute, landing perilously close to a railway line on which a train was running at that time.
His flight had lasted 25 hours and 18 minutes.