Hoosier Gus Grissom flew a similar brief flight to Shepherd, and it all went fine until splashdown when the hatch blew mysteriously, sinking the capsule. Navy divers only just managed to grab Grissom before he went down with it, but thereafter, Grissom was always blamed losing the world’s most expensive vehicle. Thirty years later, Liberty Bell was raised from the deep and a fault in the hatch found. But Grissom had already died in the tragic Apollo 1 fire.
While Grissom flew in space for about 17 minutes,Gherman Titov did 17 orbits of the Earth, staying aloft for 24 hours and thereby proving that sustained space flight was possible. Left is a Cuban postage stamp celebrating the event, below is Titov, and the Vostok II spacecraft. It was pretty cramped and claustrophobic in there.
Subsequent Russian flights saw them put two men up, stay up there for 5 days, and get the first woman up, all while the US struggled to match Yuri Gagaryn’s original effort, when John Glenn made the first American orbital flight.
That day no one needed to flush me out of my latest hiding place—there were no imaginary summons to the headmaster’s office. I was right out there, at the front of the line. Myopic was wearing a singlet so I was a skin, but I kept my singlet tied around my waist. It went on and off three times as Myopic tried to switch sides. I stalked him ruthlessly, prowling the front rows, impervious to the rabid mob behind me, keeping myself in line with Myopic. And he knew it too. Stretch and Letch and Ivan, along with a number of other large fellows who believed in cosmic order, formed a barricade behind him that kept him to the forefront, and they moved as he moved and, across no-man’s land, I moved with them, keeping him in my sights.