Longer than a day…
On 12 April 1961 at 6:06:59 UTC, to the roar of the carrier rocket’s motors, Y.A. Gagarin’s dream came true, and at the same time the last hope of G.S.Titov to become the first man in space died. In spite of the many FIRST he achieved, he has remained the second for all time.
Gherman Stepanovich Titov was born on 11 September 1935 in the village of Verkhneye Zhilino, he completed studies at the school of aviation and became a fighter pilot of the Leningrad Military District. As part of the selection process he was invited in 1960 to the first cosmonauts' squad, where he underwent arduous training and along with Yuri Gagarin and Grigori Nelyubov won through to the trio of elite candidates for the first manned flight into space. Due to his family, which could have been classified amongst the “intelligentsia”, Gherman Titov did not have a wholly ideal origin for a national hero. According to instructors he learned the procedures a little slower than, for example, Gagarin, but after he had mastered them he made a minimum of errors. But thanks to his irascible nature he reacted worse to any unexpected situations. Despite these qualities, Titov was a very strong candidate. A decision of the state committee from 8 April 1961 "condemned" Titov to the role of first space substitute. He could not have known that due to the better result in certain areas of training and greater self-confidence, the head of the cosmonauts' squad, Nikolai Petrovich Kamanin, had kept him in reserve for a later, more complicated and longer flight.
The substitute Titov continued to undergo all the pre-flight training along with Gagarin. On 11 April the last training was conducted before entering Vostok, but this time at the top of the launch tower, and during the day both cosmonauts went over the flight plan for the last time with workers of OKB-1 (K. Feoktistov and B. Raushenbach), and in the evening there followed an exhaustive medical examination. Titov’s last hope – Gagarin’s medical indisposition and the promotion of Titov to the position of first man - disappeared. After the last night, when both men merely pretended to sleep in order to fool the medical devices and to make sure their medical results were as good as possible, both men were taken to the assembly hall MIK and to the room for preparation of spacesuits. Titov was suited up first so that Gagarin would sweat for as little time as possible in his spacesuit. After getting off the bus at the launch pad, the hitherto joint journey of both men separated. One went on to stellar fame, whilst the other remained forever in the position of “that other one”. As the preparation of the carrier rocket culminated, Titov was taken out of his suit. He knew that his presence and readiness as the substitute from the very start had been merely symbolic, because in the case of a change of cosmonaut, the anatomical part of the seat would have to be replaced and the cabin rebalanced. At the moment when Gagarin blasted off on his historic journey, the technicians allowed Titov, still half dressed in his spacesuit, to run outside to watch the rocket ascending. At that moment Titov experienced the full weight of the disappointment. But his time was soon to come…
Gherman Titov's stellar moment occurred on 6 August 1961 when, at 5:59:57 UTC, he blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and went into earth orbit with the spacecraft Vostok-2. He became the youngest ever cosmonaut; he was a little younger than 26. That record holds to this day. During the actual flight Titov performed the required procedures and achieved several important and humorous firsts. During the first and seventh orbit he manually changed the position of the craft in space, he had to deal with space sickness (as a result of zero gravity), he ate twice and he slept once. He was the first person to sleep in space - in view of the demanding nature of the flight and exhaustion, he missed a communication window by approximately 35 minutes. On 7 August at 6:57, at the end of the 17th orbit, the braking motor activated and the mission of Gherman Titov headed towards its completion. The landing was accompanied by many serious, life-threatening moments. Just as in the case of Vostok-1, in contrast with the plan the instrument section remained conjoined with the re-entry module by a data cable, and everything started to rotate. After approximately 10 minutes the cable probably burned through, the rotation of the cabin stabilised, and Titov catapulted out at a height of 7km above the ground. After the main chute opened, the reserve one opened too, and at a height of 1km it started to twist around the ropes of the main one, but fortunately, the canopy did not empty. The last obstacle to a safe landing was a Moscow bound express train, which Titov just avoided by a few seconds when he landed.
On 7 August at 7:11 UTC near the town of Krasny Kut, the mission of Gherman Titov came to an end. It had lasted longer than a day – 25 hours, 11 minutes. And so Gherman Titov advanced man's possibilities in the conquest of space. After Vostok-2 landed many changes were made to spacecraft and the organisational ensuring – power cables were switched off and the train timetables for the landing area were coordinated.
Like Gagarin, Titov also attempted to get back into space, but after many excesses (often combined with alcohol) it remained forever closed to him, as it was to Gagarin. At the end of the sixties and start of the seventies he participated in the “Spiral" space plane programme, but it was his swansong – in 1970 he left the cosmonauts’ squad. But he never forgot space. During one interview he said, “Spaceflight is like a drug - once you experience it, you never want anything else..."