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Forgotten in Orbit

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On April 12th, 1961, Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space and also the first to orbit the Earth. But some people believe that Gagarin was not the first in space, he was only the first to return alive. The following is an account of a Lost Cosmonaut Gavriil Koltsov.

June 21st, 1960: The Vostok Rocket sat on the launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, USSR. It was the day of the first attempted launch of a human into space and with that, orbit. Cosmonaut Gavrill Koltsov sat in his Vostok Module, ready to make history.

A voice came over his intercom, “Major Koltsov, how are you feeling this morning?”

It was mission control, “Just fine sir, ready to go!” Koltsov radioed back.

Koltsov’s Vostok 3KA Rocket looked ready to go. Koltsov was good to go. Everything seemed as it should have. Seemed. The Rocket went through final preflight checks and then ignition. It released from the base stabilizers. The main engine and four boosters activated good. Koltsov was accelerating at 200 m/s, reaching upwards to 300 m/s. The fuel on the boosters was almost empty.

“Boosters gone!” a voice said over the radio.

The four boosters disconnected, the rocket shuttered for a second and kept going, accelerating at the loss of weight. Another minute passed, the rocket kept going, now at around 50,000 meters above Earth. The fuel on the current stage ran out and it came time to decouple the stage. The rocket now pitched to get orbital velocity. When the lower half of the rocket decoupled, something didn’t feel right to Gavriil.

He radioed command, “Come in, this is Major Koltsov to control.”

“Yes Major, is everything alright?” a voice came back.

“I just decoupled the stage and something shuttered, it just didn't feel right.”

He replied, “No, No! Nonsense Major, everything is reading fine down here.” 

Koltsov was now nervous; he frantically scanned his panels, checking everything. His fuel gauge, it was dropping fuel faster than it should have been. He checked his throttle, at about 65%, just where it should have been.

“Command, I’m losing fuel, throttle is where it should be, are you seeing anything wrong?”

On Earth, Mission Control was reading that Koltsov had a fuel leak, most likely caused when the first stage decoupled. Instead of worrying the Cosmonaut and informing him, control did not tell him. If he knew, he would panic and start to attempt a return burn to reenter atmosphere.

“Major, I understand you are under anxiety but you are fine, do not worry, you are almost in orbit,” Command said, as Koltsov was at the correct altitude to enter a good orbit.

Koltsov corrected his heading to get into a circular orbit. His fuel was nearly empty, it was at 20%, it should be around 70%. “What the hell! Command come in, come in! I am almost empty, come in!” Koltsov yelled frantically into his mic. “Command come in, goddammit!”

His orbit was off, while he radioed command, he accidentally pitched the craft. He was in an escape orbit from Earth, he grabbed control and attempted to fix his course at least to get into an elliptical orbit where he would enter Earth’s atmosphere to return. He started to pitch but, his craft shuttered and his engine stopped. His fuel was dry; he was hopeless. His craft was stuck in an escape orbit. Koltsov never heard back command

He tried once more. “Command come in, this is Major Koltsov, I am out of fuel and on an escape orbit from Earth, is there anything we can do?” Koltsov said.

He never heard back. He looked through his porthole into a black void. He only had enough food for his planned flight, which was supposed to be 3 hours. He pitched his craft so he could look at Earth through his porthole. It was getting smaller. He had ran out of electrical charge four hours into the flight. His oxygen ran out 22 hours in. He knew he was done for, but he tried one last time to tell command of his situation.

“Come in,” his voiced slowed, as he had issues breathing, “Anyone come in, this is- this is Major Gavri- Gavriil Koltsov.” He could barely finish his sentence, “Is there anything- anything we can do?” There was no signal; he was out of oxygen, out of food, out of electricity. Out of hope.

Gavriil looked out his porthole at Earth. The Blue Planet was beautiful, but the thought gripped Gavrill. He would never see it agian, he would never see his home, family, friends. His family would get a telegraph saying he was killed in some training accident. But they would not know that he made history, he became the first man in space. But he knew they would not find out.

He closed his eyes one final time, drifting away from Earth. Forgotten.

Written by Swede641
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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