60 Years Ago Today, One of the Most Surreal Encounters in Spaceflight History Took Place

Years ago today, a five-year-old girl and her grandmother were on their farm near the town of Engels in western Russia, when they met in an extremely strange scene. Above them, they saw the crash of a large object on Earth a few miles away. A few minutes later, a figure in a silver dress slowly descended on a parachute and asked the two if he could use their telephone.

On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in outer space. The landing areas on early spaceflight were not as precise as they are now (see footage of the Space X flight where the rocket landed right next to the pad almost every time or on the pad before the explosion), and Gagarin could leave some trail. 

It was not just a hypothetical scene, the crew of Vokshod 2 landed in a remote wolf-throwing Siberian forest. Luckily, Gagarin landed on the farm and had to find his own transport in Moscow. “After stepping on the ground, I saw a woman and a girl standing next to a spotted calf and looking at me in amazement,” when they saw me in my space suit and I was dragging the parachute as I walked, they backed away in fear starts to go back.”

From their point of view, it was a strange vision and at first, no one was quite sure that he came from the earth. “I looked around and saw something orange and beautiful. I did not know what it was. It was coming towards us,” Rita Nurskanova told the BBC. “The old woman got scared. She grabbed my hand. In addition, we wanted to go back home. She said, ‘Ladies, stop! I’m one of our boys!’ “I said, ‘Granny, stop! He speaks Russian. He’s probably human.’ According to Nurskanova, it was here that Gagarin – who knows to have ridiculous ideas – had some fun with the two. According to Gagarin, he explained the whole situation to the two and he needed his phone. “I told them, don’t be afraid, I’m a Soviet like you, who came down from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!” Shortly afterwards, Gagarin returned to Moscow as a hero, the first man to orbit the earth.