A Tribute to the Vostok 3KA: the Craft That Carried the First Man Into Orbit

Everyone is paying tribute to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin today, and with good reason: he was the first man to travel into space. But let's not forget the craft that got him there, the Vostok 3KA.

The Vostok was built in 1960, and under the name Vostok 1K, flew in six unmanned test missions prior to 1961. Resembling some sort of metallic insect, the Vostok was roughly 14.5-feet-tall and 7.5-feet-wide. The Vostok 3KA could hold a single cosmonaut, and was built to survive 10 days in space.

A Tribute to the Vostok 3KA: the Craft That Carried the First Man Into Orbit

The development of the Vostok 3KA was two-fold: of couse, it was intended to be a manned spacecraft. But it was also developed as a camera platform for spying and was the main reason it got support from the Communist party. After all, the Cold War was in full swing, and the U.S. and Russia were up each others asses.

Gagarin's trip was, of course, secret, and accounts of the flight didn't surface for quite some time after the fact. But after the initial trip on this day in 1961, the Vostok 3KA flew in seven more missions, 5 of which were manned. For it's final flight, which was part of the Vostok 6 mission, the 3KA flew cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova up into orbit to test the effect of space on the female body.

The Vostok 3KA may have lacked the long lifespan of the Soyuz, and the glamour of the Apollo missions, but it holds the very important distinction of being the first craft to carry man into space. [Braeunig and Astronautix via Wikipedia]