by Anita Sullivan


Yuri Gagarin


If Yuri Gagarin had so much as sneezed on the 12th of April 1961 the honour of being the first man in orbit would have gone to his training partner, Gherman Titov. But Gagarin didn't sneeze and a disappointed Titov had to climb back down the launch tower. A few months later Titov did launch successfully in Vostock II. He completed 17 earth orbits (got space-sick, ate and slept) and is still the youngest person ever to have gone into space. But he's largely unheard of because he wasn't 'first'. In Anita Sullivan's play, which marks the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's flight, the story of the two cosmonauts - their training, their selection, the flight and its aftermath, is told through Titov's eyes.

'Titanium' was a BBC Wales production directed by Kate McAll. It was broadcast as an Afternoon Play in April 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's flight. It starred Derek Riddell, William Ash with Sarah Ovens, Allun Raglan and Stephen Marzella.

It has been nominated for a Writers' Guild Award.

Duration: 44 minutes.


Yuri's 50th anniversary site: http://yurigagarin50.org/

1960's Soviet propaganda booklet about Gagarin: http://www.kosmonaut.se/gagarin/index_article.html

Vostok (1) flight: http://www.russianspaceweb.com/vostok1.html

Titov's flight: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/6/newsid_2944000/2944638.stm

Titov's biography: http://www.astronautix.com/astros/titov.htm


[Gagarin is in a MiG, out of control. We hear his voice through headphones, full of static. This contrasts with Titov’s calm internal narration. The two voices are held together by music.]

TITOV    -Flight. Any flight. Is the control of opposing forces. Weight versus lift...

GAGARIN  -This is MiG-15, Flight 625. Do you read me?

TITOV    -...thrust versus drag. Gravity...

GAGARIN  -Controls not responding. Can you hear me??

TITOV    -...versus the pull of the beyond.

GAGARIN  -Rapid descent, spin. Rotation increasing... revolution thirteen, fourteen, fifteen...

TITOV    -Flight is a negotiation of mathematics where one millimetre, one gram, one second... can throw you from stars to Earth, turn you from God to ash.

GAGARIN  -[Struggling to stay conscious] ...twenty, twenty-one.. Controls not responding. G-forces increasing. Vision blurring. Can’t... (breathe). Fading... going... going...

[Static blast then silence from MIG.]

TITOV     -Flight. Is always on the brink of impossible.


Click here to return to the Home Page