Model, Spacecraft, Vostok 1:24

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    Model, Spacecraft, Vostok 1:24

    Unassembled plastic kit, Vostok spacecraft, 1/14 scale; box in sealed plastic.

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This object is on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

James S. McDonnell Space Hangar

A child's toy, a model of a spacecraft, would not seem to be significant in the history of aerospace technology. However, this model marks a milestone in the road to secrecy in the soviet space program and its release almost eight years after the first flight of the Vostok is significant as it indicates who was watching the technical details about spacecraft most closely.

After his flight around the Earth, Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin immediately embarked on a world tour. Immediately after his flight, in 1962, John Glenn's spacecraft went on world tour that was known as the fourth orbit of Friendship 7. NASA and the State Department arranged for the spacecraft to be exhibited throughout the world as a demonstration of American technical expertise and openness. That is the fundamental difference between the publicity over the Vostok and Mercury flights. There was a reason for this secrecy. Because the Vostok could not be slowed adequately to assure the cosmonaut's safety, Gagarin ejected from the spacecraft at just over 20,000 above the Earth. This skirted the requirement of the IAF that the pilot and his craft land together in order to be recognized as the first man in space. Throughout the Vostok program, the details about the final minutes of Gagarin's flight were vague, even after second man in space, German Titov, had described the parachute and ejection system shortly after his own flight in August 1961. Titov's revelations actually led to an American challenge to his claim for the flight duration record an attempted to impose John Glenn's record as the long duration flight.

Even through all of this, official Soviet statements about Gagarin's flight remained ambiguous and they published no detailed photographs, nor did they publicly display flown Vostok spacecraft until after they were through with the Vostok hardware for human spaceflight missions in 1965. It was not until immediately prior to the launch of the Soyuz spacecraft that details about the Vostok came out, and then it was in comparison to the new and maneuverable Soyuz.

This Revel model came out on the market in 1969. It reflects the latest and most complete knowledge in the west of the Soviet hardware. Model-makers dwell on details far more intricate than most intelligence services who are far more interested in capabilities and intensions than specifics about bolt sizes.

An American collector donated this model kit to the museum.