Before Yuri Gagarin piloted the first manned mission into space, the Soviet Union launched the first mannequinned mission.
See, Soviet engineers wanted to be sure the rocket Yuri would be flying actually, y’know, worked. So for the test flights, a state-of-the-art dummy stood in for Yuri. His creators named him “Ivan Ivanovich” — the Russian equivalent of “John Doe.”
Ivan looked like the real deal. He wore the same pressure suit Yuri would. He had lifelike skin, eyebrows and eyelashes. In fact, engineers worried he might be a little too realistic. Ivan would be ejected from the rocket after it re-entered the atmosphere, parachuting to Earth: what if a peasant found him and mistook him for an actual dead cosmonaut? Or maybe an alien? So they stuck a big sign on his face: It read “maket.” Russian for “dummy.”
Ivan was less lifelike on his second ride into space ’cause to test the rocket’s communications, he was rigged with a sound system that blasted choir music. Also — just to confuse any Westerners picking up the broadcast via radio — the dummy periodically babbled a recorded recipe… for cabbage soup.
Still, Ivan caused at least one moment of confusion. After test flight two, he and the rocket landed near a rural town. When officials arrived to survey the site, villagers were outraged no one seemed to be helping the poor injured spaceman lying in the snow. The furor died down when one of the town’s elders was allowed to touch Ivan’s rubber face.
Ivan made it unscathed through all his missions, paving the way for Gargarin’s historic flight a few weeks later.
But while Yuri got put on stamps and was hailed as a hero, Ivan went into storage. He didn’t get his due ’til the ’90s: When the Ross Perot Foundation bought him for close to $200,000, dusted him off and put him on display at the Smithsonian.
The Ivan Splash
Touch down with this cosmonaut cocktail as assembled by Peter Mitchell, in Houston, TX a.k.a. Space City.
- 1.75 ounces of Stolichnaya Vodka
- 1.5 ounces of freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 ounces of simple syrup
- Splash of Brasserie Lefèbvre Manneken Pis Belgian White Beer
In a shaker filled with ice, combine the ingredients. Shake and then strain into a tulip glass. Top up with the Belgian white beer. (There’s your splash down.) Observe how eerily similar it looks to a real cocktail. Then drink just to be sure. You may install the glass in the Smithsonian, if you wish.