Titov was an extraordinary man, perhaps even more than Gagarin. His cv reads like that of a fictional hero:
- Youngest person in Space (stil valid)
- Second Russian cosmonaut in Space – August 6th, 1961
- Second person to orbit the earth (17 orbits – Gagarin did 1 orbit)
- First ever pilot of a space craft (the others did not control their ships)
- Second man in space in high orbit
- First person to spend more than a day in space (Gagarin had done 108 minutes)
- First person to sleep in space
- Test pilot of first space plane program
- Member of Russian parliament (not USSR)
Cosmonauts were publicly celebrated in the USSR as symbols of Soviet success. Titov was one of the ‘golden boys’ of the USSR – so valuable, that when Gagarin was killed in an accident, Titov was no longer allowed to work as a test pilot, in case the country lost its other heroic cosmonaut.
There is a Russian ‘popular folk rumour’ that Titov was picked to be the first man in space but then the authorities chose Gagarin instead – because Titov’s name was ‘German’ and thus not sufficiently ‘Soviet’. I have seen absolutely no evidence to support this somewhat preposterous claim.