I was puzzled slightly as to why the Soviet Union used the name “Ivan Ivanovich” given to the mannequin they placed into orbit in the Vostok Spacecraft missions. One of my friends claimed that Ivan Ivanovich, used in a Russian context, is similar to the name John Doe in English. But that explanation didn’t sit well with me.
Ivan Ivanovich is an important name in Tsarist Russia. He was heir apparent of the Tsardom of Russia in the 1500s as the son of Ivan the Terrible. My first impression was that the name usage for a mannequin was intended as an insult to the memory of the royal Romanov family. I might have been just overlaying one historical figure onto that of another.
Today is the anniversary of the day that Sputnik 9, also named Korabl Sputnik 4, was launched by the Soviet Union. Among the payload was Ivan Ivanovich. He was an important part in determining how ready the Soviet space program would be for actual manned flight into space.
Ivan was modeled to appear like a real human. He was dressed in a regulation cosmonaut suit for his short journey into space. There was room inside his body for some of the test rodents that also went into space that day. He had a canine companion dog named Chernushka. To test the spacecraft’s communications system, a looped recording of a choir was installed in him, as well.
Aside from the tests of live animals, the main mission was to monitor and test the Vostok spacecraft’s landing equipment. The sputnik mission lasted only for the duration of one orbit. His ejection module was parachuted to earth, and was recovered.
Later that month, March 26th, Ivan was placed into Sputnik 10, or Korabl Sputnik 5 for another short jaunt into space. He had another dog companion, Zvesdochka, plus other rodents and reptiles. His looped recording included the choir plus a recipe for cabbage soup so as to confound any evesdroppers.
The flight of Korabl Sputnik 5 went off without a hitch and Ivan Ivanovich returned safely to his handlers. His success paved the way for the April 12, 1961 launch of Vostok 1 with a real human, Yuri A. Gargarin, on board who became the first human in space.
Ironically, Ivan Ivanovich was placed on the auction block at Sotheby’s in 1993. The winning bid of $189,500 came from an organization that belongs to American businessman Ross Perot. Then, in 1997, he was loaned to the National Air and Space Museum where he is today.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is glad that no dogs were harmed in the spaceflights with Ivan Ivanovich.