The Story of... The Vostok program: Russia's first-ever astronauts



Everybody has heard of the NASA's famous Apollo series of space missions, which of course resulted in the first man, Neil Armstrong, walking on the surface of the moon in 1969.

However, despite that achievement effectively ending the ultra-competitive 'space race' between Russia and America, the Soviet Union's Vostok programme should also be remembered for making history.

With the launch of the first major craft under the programme, the Vostok 1 in 1961, Russia set the standard for what was to come. That flight was the first to ever put a man in to orbit, and that man was Yuri Gagarin.

He is still regarded as a hero in Russia, as Neil Armstrong is in America, and as such memorabilia linked to him can sell for similarly high prices.

memorabilia linked to Neil Armstrong is worth thousands because of its rarity and collectability

In 2008, Heritage sold this signed photo for $5,078.75. This black and white image of Gagarin, looking determined and calm despite the fact he was about to write his name into the history books, is also inscribed with a message.

It reads 'The wisdom of the [Communist] Party, the strength of Soviet people - all these helped us in difficult work of first space conquerors. Gagarin.'

His patriotism towards his motherland means he is an icon in Russia, and will remain so forever. For this reason alone, Yuri Gagarin memorabilia will always be a valuable investment.

The records did not end there though, as other craft also set benchmarks for space exploration. The Vostok 2, also launched in 1961, was the first manned mission that lasted a full day.


Yuri Gagarin is a Russian legend because of his monumental flight

A year later in August 1962, Vostok 3 and 4, two separate craft, completed the first ever simultaneous flight of two manned rockets in space.

Just a year after that in 1963, two more significant flights were made, with Vostok 5 completing the longest solo flight in space, lasting more than four days, and the Vostok 6 included a woman in the crew for the first time ever.

As a result, Valentina Tereshkova has gone down in history as a female icon, and as such memorabilia linked to her is also very valuable. Her signed SK-2 training helmet sold for $13,000 at an auction in Bell Canyon, California in 2005.

The pioneering efforts of the Soviet Union meant that for a long time, they were leading the race, and their historic flights have unsurprisingly spawned a large market which is dedicate to collecting Russian space memorabilia.


As she was the first woman in space, Tereshkova memorabilia is very collectible

Items like this incredible capsule, which sold for $2.9m at Sotheby's earlier this year. It was significant because it in effect cleared the way for Gagarin's momentous flight, as it was sent into orbit just three weeks before his mission.

If the dog aboard it, called Zvezdochka, had died, then it may have delayed Gagarin's launch and altered history. But, the Vostok 3KA-2 completed a single orbit of the Earth on March 25 1961, and the dog was fine.


Like something from a science-fiction novel, this Vostok capsule is truly unique

Join our readers in more than 200 countries around the world - sign up for your free weekly Collectibles Newsletter today

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£65,000
In stock