The Atlantic introduces Ivan Ivanovich, a mannequin who "beta tested space." He was used as proof by Russian engineers that their spacecraft was capable of safely sending a man into space and then bring him back — sort of.
Not long ago, though, when space travel was still one of humanity's most epic and frantic goals, the concept itself -- sending a man into space! -- alarmed people. Particularly those people who were responsible for making the travel happen in the first place. Space was tantalizingly, terrifyingly new -- and we simply did not know what would happen to an earthly body when it was shot outside of the Earth itself. There were legitimate fears of radiation poisoning. There were less-legitimate fears of "space madness." There were concerns about the considerable psychic and political consequences should something go wrong. The Soviets, like their American counterparts, wanted to be first to space -- but they wanted, more specifically, to be the first to make it back again. Gagarin had to make his historical orbit around the Earth; he then, just as importantly, had to return to Earth intact. No other outcome would be tolerable.
Above, a photo of Ivan from his Wikipedia page.
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