Vostok, Russian for "east," was the name of a highly successful space program of the Soviet Union in the 1960s.
The Vostok project began in January 1958 with the purpose of sending humans into space, following the successful launch into orbit of Sputnik. Its design was based on ideas of engineers Sergei Korolev and Konstantin Feoktistov.
Vostok spacecraft were made up of two parts: the cabin with the radio and survival equipment, the instruments and the ejection seat; and the service module with the manouvering rockets, batteries and other support equipment. The service module was ditched during descent. The cabin also boasted three tiny portholes.
Before the first attempt to send a human into space, there were seven tests in the Vostok series, two of which (the second and fifth) failed to launch. All but the first
two had dogs for passengers. The successful trial flights were named Korabl 1 to 5 and were made between 1960-05-15 and 1961-03-25. Vostok 3/4 and 5/6 were in flight simultaneously and even approached each other but the
craft had no docking capabilities. Vostok 3 and later were equipped for ten days of survival despite the missions being much shorter.
All Vostok flights lifted off at Baikonur in Kazakhstan and landed in relative proximity within the Soviet Union. The cosmonauts did not actually land with the craft but parachuted from it at high altitude. This fact was unknown until much later and was hidden because the record books required the pilot to land with the craft.
Launch date: 1961-04-12
Cosmonaut: Yuri Gagarin
Duration: 0d 1h 48m
Events: Proved that it could be done. First manned space flight. This was also the only flight where the cosmonaut had only a manual emergency override for the
controls and flight control was conducted from the ground.
Launch date: 1961-08-06
Cosmonaut: Gherman Titov
Duration: 1d 1h 18m
Events: Stayed in orbit for a full day. Titov was the first casualty of space sickness. The landing was perilously close to a railway line with a moving train.
Launch date: 1962-08-11
Cosmonaut: Andriyan Nikolaev
Duration: 3d 22h 22m
Events: Followed a course plotted by a Kosmos probe. Uneventful.
Launch date: 1962-08-12
Cosmonaut: Pavel Popovich
Duration: 2d 22h 56m
Events: First instance of two humans and craft in space at the same time.
Launch date: 1963-06-14
Cosmonaut: Valery Bykovsky
Duration: 4d 23h 7m
Events: Similar to Vostok 3. Bykovsky spoke with Nikita Khrushchev during the flight.
Launch date: 1963-06-16
Cosmonaut: Valentina Tereshkova
Duration: 2d 22h 50m
Events: First woman in space. Records of both her and Bykovsky's conversations with ground control were made by a Swedish radio amateur.
The Vostok program was abandoned in 1964 in favour of the multi-person Voskhod project. Its success put the Soviet Union well ahead in the space race and set the bar high for NASA's Apollo program.