Russia releases Gagarin's secret last words

10th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

One of the last things Yuri Gagarin did before making his pioneering voyage into space 50 years ago was make sure he had enough sausage to last him on the trip back home to Moscow.

This tidbit was among more than 700 pages of archival material linked to Gagarin's historic 108-minute shot as the first man in space that were released by Russia on Friday.

The country will be awash in celebrations on the anniversary Tuesday of the flight as its Soviet-era hero is feted in ceremonies stretching from the International Space Station to the Kremlin.

But little noticed among the released documents is a conversation Gagarin had while strapped into his capsule with chief rocket designer Sergei Korolyov -- a man who has gained legendary status in Russia in his own right.

Gagarin is best remembered for pronouncing "Poyekhali!" as his Vostok spacecraft lifted off the ground.

The phrase can be translated as either "Let's Go!" or "We're Off!" and is now a regular part of the Russian lexicon.

But the Russian Internet was abuzz this weekend with what Gagarin said moments before his famous catchphrase.

One of Korolyov's biggest worries appeared to be that the would-be hero had enough to eat once he touched down on Earth.

"There in the flap you have dinner, supper and breakfast," the father of the Soviet rocket programme told Gagarin by radio as the clock ticked down.

"Got it," Gagarin replied in comments originally posted on the website.

"You've got sausage, candy and jam to go with the tea," Korolyov went on. "Sixty-three pieces -- you'll get fat! When you get back today, eat everything right away."

Gagarin joked back: "The main thing is that there is sausage -- to go with the moonshine."

Korolyov appeared to take the joke in stride.

"Damn. This thing is recording everything, the bastard," the scientist said in reference to the relay recorders.

The website also published a photograph of the original faded sheet on which the conversation is transcribed. added that Gagarin appeared to be singing and whistling to himself while mission control continued conducting various last-minute checks.

Not all of them went smoothly.

Gagarin at one point is told to rip off some adhesive tape and adjust a piece of equipment because "we forgot to tape that thing".

He is later told that access hatch would have to be readjusted because "one of the contacts failed to light up" on the mission control panel.

Gagarin appeared to take everything in stride and began happily reporting all he saw once his spacecraft was finally aloft.

Various historians noted that one of the Soviet officials' biggest fears was that their cosmonaut would lose consciousness once he became weightless.

"The sensation of weightlessness feels nice," Gagarin reported to ground control at one point. "Everything is swimming."

© 2011 AFP

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