Yuri Gagarin

Russian cosmonaut Jurij Gagarin

He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961.

Yuri Gagarin was born in Smolensk, Russia, the region west of Moscow. He was the third of four children of the Gagarin family, having a brother 10 years older than him, Valentin, an older sister, Zoia and a younger brother, Boris.

Gagarin began to go to school in September 1941. His family recently lost their home after the invasion of the Soviet Union by Hitler’s Nazi army. About this time, he saw for the first time a plane. It was a Russian war plane which was hit during his flight and was forced to land. Shortly thereafter, the German army invaded Yuri’s village, his family was forced to move to a shelter, and the school was permanently closed.

Gagarin continued his studies, making skydiving training and learning to fly airplanes. He got married and in April 1959 Gagarin’s daughter, Elena, was born. Meanwhile, he submitted his candidacy to be the first man to fly into space. Yuri was one of the 20 to have passed the extremely hard physical test, thus, moving with his family to a training base located 25 kilometers north of Moscow. The base received the name “Road to the stars”.

In the take-off morning, on 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin knew that he would be the one to fly in space, but he continued to joke. Then, at Kamanin’s orders, Gagarin and the Vostok ship began to rise at a breakneck speed. Fifty-five minutes after the launch of the Vostok spaceship, the government issued an official announcement as planned: “The first aircraft manned on board was launched. The pilot is a member of the Soviet Communist Party, Major Yuri Alekseievich Gagarin”. Before takeoff, Gagarin was lieutenant. While he was in space, he was promoted in rank by two notches. Vostok flew around the orbit of the Earth, right through the equator for about 90 minutes. 108 minutes after its launch, the spaceship landed near the town of Saratov, a city very dear to Gagarin. On 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to reach into space and the first one to have reached the Earth’s orbit.

On 14 April 1961, Gagarin has met with the press to talk about the first manned space mission on board. Yuri Gagarin had already become a national hero. The government has begun to use it for propaganda purposes. Gagarin’s flight was a triumph for the Soviet space program. The announcement on the Soviet radio was made by Yuri Levitan, the same speaker who announced all major events in the Great Patriotic War. Gagarin became a national hero of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, and a worldwide celebrity. Newspapers around the globe published his biography and details of his flight. Moscow and other cities in the USSR held mass demonstrations, the scale of which was second only to World War II Victory Parades. Gagarin was escorted in a long motorcade of high-ranking officials through the streets of Moscow to the Kremlin where, in a lavish ceremony, he was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, by Nikita Khrushchev. Later on, Gagarin toured widely abroad. He visited Italy, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Egypt and Finland to promote the Soviet Union’s accomplishment of putting the first human in space.

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