From the pale horizon,
The chorus of stars goes down,
The edge of the earth softly lightens,
And gradually the day arises.
Gherman Titov awoke gradually, after a deep sleep. If he had been dreaming, those dreams quickly vanished as he tried to make sense of a confusing rush of sensations. At first, he had no idea where he was, and a nagging headache wasn’t helping as he tried to orient himself. He looked at his arms; to his astonishment, they were floating gently in front of him, and he could also see a couple of objects lazily floating by them. Then he remembered where he was. He was inside a craft named Vostok 2, with some of the most spectacular views he would ever witness passing by his porthole, an endless procession of breathtaking beauty. He was in space.
True to his independent character, Titov had overslept. “When I woke up and saw the time,” he later recounted, “I thought: there will be trouble about this.” Yet, to his relief, there wasn’t; ground control did not mention anything to him about oversleeping. Throughout his military career, Titov had pursued a risky habit of questioning orders but usually came out on top. Once again, luck seemed to be on his side.
During the flight of Vostok 2, Titov spent just over a day in space. After Gagarin’s single orbit and the two American suborbital missions, Titov’s seventeen-orbit flight was an incredible leap forward in the history of space exploration. The three flights that had preceded his, while providing substantial steps forward for their respective programs, now seemed like mere tentative hops by comparison. Titov would travel a greater distance than