Review: First Orbit

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On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first human ever to travel into outer space. Exactly fifty years later, First Orbit was released to celebrate this historical event. First Orbit was released on YouTube, and is available free to anybody with an internet connection (and embedded below).

First Orbit is presented as a documentary with a unique style to it. The intention was to create a first-person view of what Gagarin would have witnessed from the window of the Vostok 1. The documentary combined old footage, along with new footage that had been taken from the International Space Station. The original radio transmission between Gagarin and the command base was added to the new footage, along with an excellent soundtrack. To add to the accuracy of the experience, the new video footage was taken at the identical time of day and angle as that of Gagarin's voyage from fifty years ago. As breathtaking as the new footage can be, sometimes the (likely unintentional) inclusion of parts of the space station in the shots took away from the suspension of belief that what was filmed was really what Gagarin saw. Aside from this minor flaw, the First Orbit does deliver in recreating Gagarin's observations as he orbited the Earth.

This less-is-more approach does have its drawbacks. It became clear very early on, that First Orbit would consist almost entirely of looking out of a window at the Earth or outer space. There are no actors, or sets that feature the inside of the Vostok 1. As a result, not even the incredible filming of seeing the Earth from the International Space Station can keep this documentary from becoming dull very quickly. Having an omniscient voice to narrate the events would have been a good addition, even if it would contradict the intentional style of the documentary. An optional audio commentary would be a good compromise. Until then, First Orbit is not entirely accessible to viewers that are not intimately familiar with space travel.

Tags: First Orbit, Yuri Gagarin, Vostok 1, documentary, youtube, International Space Station, Soviet, cosmonaut, astronomy, NASA

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