Space money: how much was paid to Yuri Gagarin for a historic flight

On April 12, 1961, a truly epoch-making event took place: a human being is in Earth’s orbit! For our country, this is a special page in history: after barely recovering from the consequences of the Great Patriotic War, we became victorious in the space race.

But if the contribution to the evolution of humanity may be impossible to assess – the extent of achievement is too great, then it will not be difficult to calculate space money today: many data have already been declassified.

How much did the first satellite cost?

From the document sent to the country’s leadership we learn that “the approximate cost of all work related to the creation of an artificial satellite (excluding the cost of the R-7 rocket) will be up to 250 million rubles” (“Note by MV Chrunichev , VM Ryabikov and SP Korolev to NS Khrushchev and IA Bulganin on the work of creating an artificial earth satellite, 5 August 1955).

For comparison: this figure was 10 times less than the annual expenditure of the Soviet state budget in 1955 for day care (slightly less than 2.5 billion rubles) or for cultural and educational work among children and adults (2.7 billion rubles).

How much did the first astronauts get paid?

Data on positions and salaries provided for the first cosmonauts, we learn from the “Rules on cosmonauts”, approved by the Soviet Council of Ministers on August 3, 1960. Let us give as a comparison data on the maximum average monthly salaries of workers and employees in 1960 and the average figures for the country.

Students and cosmonauts also received salaries according to military ranks (on a common basis with the air force’s flight personnel). The cosmonauts who made the flight were awarded a class and a monthly bonus to their official salary:

What were the prices for space travel?

The “rules on astronauts” from 1960 also gave bonuses for the first space travel:

“For each completed spaceflight flight on a rocket, cosmonauts receive a one-time reward of 50 to 150 thousand rubles. The specific amount of compensation for each completed flight is determined by a decision of the Soviet Council of Ministers on the proposal of the Interdepartmental Scientific and Technical Council for Space Research Academy of Sciences and USSR Ministry of Defense.

Remember these numbers.

What prize did Yuri Gagarin receive for the first spaceflight?

On April 12, 1961, in his submission to the Central Committee of the CPSU to award Yuri Gagarin “For his exemplary escape into space and the courage, courage and heroism shown at the same time”, the USSR Secretary of Defense proposes to award Major Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, to present the Order of Lenin, Gold Star Medal and give him a one-time reward of 15 thousand rubles.

Not 150, not 50, but only 15.

Who made a mistake and counted wrong?

Let’s just say, no one. In fact, the “Regulations on Cosmonauts” with salaries and bonuses were adopted in 1960, and Yuri Gagarin made his first spaceflight on April 12, 1961. Between these dates, another important event took place in the country – the monetary reform of 1961. Within three months, from 1 January to April 1, 1961, worked more than 27 thousand exchange offices throughout the country, where employees of the State Bank exchanged old banknotes of the 1947 model for new 1961 samples.

How did the “old” money change into the “new”?

The exchange took place in a ratio of 10: 1. Therefore, both prices and salaries were recalculated. But the habit of including both “old” and “new” money lasted a long time.

The 1961 banknotes reflected the era of the 1960s – their dynamism and lightness. In size, they were considerably smaller than the post-war banknotes of the 1947 model. On large denominations is a bas-relief of Lenin in an oval medallion, which also served as a watermark. These banknotes will survive until the end of the Soviet era.

So how much did the first cosmonaut Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin get for his first spaceflight?

As you can already calculate, 15 thousand rubles “new” is equal to 150 thousand rubles “old” – the maximum amount of the premium prescribed for a space flight.

Subsequently, other cosmonauts who made their first space travel during the first half of the 1960s received the same award. Money for their bonuses was allocated from the reserve fund of the Soviet Council of Ministers.

In addition, the cosmonauts from the Soviet government received such a type of material incentive as the Volga car.

This car was manufactured from 1956 and was until the end of the Soviet period a symbol of personal prestige and wealth: managers drove in such a car with a driver, it was the most expensive car that could be bought for personal use (“The Seagull” did not go on sale and the selling price did not have.) The Volga was ridden by scientists and cultural figures, senior officers and generals, and just such a machine was given to the first astronauts when they returned to Earth.

How many cars can an astronaut buy for a space flight price?

Another symbol of the Soviet car industry is the “Zaporozhet” ZAZ-965, “humpback” – whose mass production began in 1960. It was created with an eye on the FIAT-600 and Volkswagen Beetle, which were popular in Europe at the time. It was supposed to be a car available to all Soviet citizens. It cost 1,800 rubles, while the Volga cost 5,100.

With the bonus that Gagarin received when he returned to Earth, he was able to buy three Volga (pay a little extra) and almost 8.5 Zaporozhets.

A similar bonus procedure was amended in 1967 by the decree of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the USSR Council of Ministers “On the training of test cosmonauts and research cosmonauts.” This document already provides the ranking of bonus payments:

– from 2,000 to 7,000 rubles for ordinary space flights;

from 5,000 to 15,000 rubles for the first most complex flights to outer space, to solve new problems in space exploration (including flying around the moon, landing on it and so on).

Through the size of the awards, we thus see how the era of the first steps into space ends. Flights into space – the work of an astronaut – remain risky, heroic, but already just a job. But the names of the space pioneers will be the names of their hometowns and cities, as well as streets and squares throughout the country and beyond. Their figures will become monuments, and their faces, recognizable all over the world, will be immortalized on commemorative coins from the Bank of Russia.

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