Finally, on the morning of February 21, all the population of the N1 assembly area and a residential area, situated just south of the launch pad, was ordered to evacuate. The giant service structure then rolled away leaving the dark-gray rocket with a white payload fairing towering under sunny skies. The weather was extremely cold, with temperatures falling to minus 44 C degrees, and stormy winds. In the fortified firing control room, the Commander of the 6th Directorate, took the firing command position at the main periscope…
Trouble began on the sixth day of the flight, November 17. The capsule developed an atmospheric leak, the pressure first dropping from 760 to 380 mm of Mercury. With the drop in cabin pressure all the animal test subjects died. It would have killed any Cosmonaut not wearing a spacesuit.
The first attempt for a Zond 4 follow-up launched on April 22. It failed when the Launch Escape System sent an erroneous abort command at T+260 seconds and shut down the Proton booster’s second stage. The escape rocket fired and pulled the descent module to safety.
Hundreds of millions of people all over the planet had seen Gagarin smiling joyfully in person or on television. He was theirs, familiar to everyone, and at the same time a “Citizen of the Universe.”