The entire mission would be controlled by either automatic systems or by ground control. This was because medical staff and spacecraft engineers were unsure how a human might react to weightlessness, and therefore it was decided to lock the pilot's manual controls. In an unusual move, a code to unlock the controls was placed in an onboard envelope, for Gagarin's use in case of emergency. Prior to the flight, Kamanin and others told Gagarin the code (1-2-5) anyway.


How did this lockout work?

  1. Was the lockout mechanical, or electrical?
  2. Exactly which controls were disabled?
  3. Are there pictures of the lockout?

Related: What was the globe instrument in Vostok 1?

This is part of 6 questions honoring the 60th anniversary of Vostok 1, the first human spaceflight.


1 Answer 1


For Vostok, the controls were really not all that impressive by today's standards. The picture below shows the control and information panels on Vostok spacecraft.

Vostok control & information panels

Here, 1 is the information display (orientation, status lights, ...), 2 is a 2-axis joystick and 3 is the control panel. Quite ascetic, as you can see.

The lockout was electrical. You can clearly see it here in the top left corner:

Control panel

And this picture shows the code lock part with its electrical connector:


Here, 1 is the encoder and 2 is the input area. The encoders were a separate, removable part and configured the code lock for a specific combination. They looked like this:


Now that is out of the way, what did the lockout actually do? When enabled, it electrically blocked any inputs from the control panel and all the work was done by the onboard computer. You can also see that some critical switches are even put being a clear cover (although that was not locked as far as I can see). The switches under that cover performed functions as:

  • Enabling manual control (the joystick)
  • Triggering the emergency signal
  • Controlling the oxygen supply

After Vostok-2, the lockout was no longer used and the code lock was removed from the control panel. Most likely this happened after it was confirmed that the cosmonauts would not become delirious in space.

You can see a mock-up of the side panel here:

Side panel

Source (in Russian)

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Space. Excellent answer! $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Apr 14, 2021 at 16:06

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