ANALYSIS: Gagarin's Falsified Flight Record
Gagarin recognized that the Soviet Vostok and Voskhod capsules were limited, much like NASA's Mercury and Gemini spacecraft were. Owing to the damage caused by the heat shield burning away during atmospheric reentry, the capsules could only be used once. And without a proper landing system, there was no option but for cosmonauts to either eject or stay in their descent module and hope their landing rockets fired to give them a soft landing. (The Americans, of course, splashed down.) A spaceplane with wings that could slow and control the spacecraft's descent to landing would simplify everything.
At the time, solving the technical problems of a spaceplane was one of the greatest technical challenges in the still fledgling world of spaceflight. But Gagarin, according to his tutors, took up the challenge with strict self-discipline. He showed incredible foresight when he stipulated in his work that any winged spaceplane had to be capable of unpowered landings. Engines fail, he noted, and saw a spaceplane unable to make an unpowered landing as little more than a deathtrap.