Records File by The First Man in Space Estimated at US$50,000

We are all familiar with the history of American astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930-2012), the first person to walk on the Moon. But do you know anything about the first person in space? Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) was the first human to enter space and orbit the Earth. Records file documenting this historical spaceflight is to be sold at Sotheby’s New York with an estimate of US$50,000 - 80,000.

Left: Yuri Gagarin on Time Magazine’s cover in 1961 Right: The launch of the Soviet spaceship - Vostok 1

Coverage from British newspaper Daily Mirror

The achievement of making two “firsts” in space was a result of the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War. Soviet Union dominated the early years of the Space Race by launching the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, to orbit the Earth in 1957. In 1961, Soviet Union launched spaceship Vostok 1 to carry Yuri Gagarin, who became the first man to travel into space and orbit the Earth.

Records file to be sold at the sale

Vostok 1, Gagarin was sitting inside the capsule

The records file to be sold at the sale is an English version signed by Gagarin and the chief engineers of the Soviet Space programme. The Soviet Union prepared the file for submission to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) to certify the mission of launching the first manned spaceship. The file consists of flight records, details of the mission and Gagarin’s report recorded his observation of the Earth and his experience in the spaceship. 

No official photo for the cover with typographical errors. The above picture is a cover without errors

The file was not submitted in the end as a number of typographical errors were discovered – including “left-off” for “lift-off” and “slight suit” for “flight suit". The Soviet Union submitted a revised version to the FAI after making corrections while this version with errors has been passed down.

Gagarin’s unprecedented accomplishment astonished the world and turned the heat up on the United States. In the following year, 1962, the then U.S. president Kennedy made his famous speech “We choose to go to the Moon” to show his determination to land on the Moon. In 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to land on the Moon in the Apollo 11 mission.

Gagarin did not get the chance to witness the above history-making moment. He died a year before Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon as Gagarin’s training jet crashed in 1968.


Records File on the First Space Flight by Yuri Gargarin on April 12, 1961 on Spaceship-sputnik “Vostok”

Auction house: Sotheby’s New York
Sale: Space Exploration
Sale number: N09759
Sale date: 2017/7/20

Lot number: 44
Provenance: Sotheby’s New York, 16 March 1996, lot number 39
Estimate: US$ 50,000 - 80,000