Yuri Gagarin

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Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space and the first man to orbit the Earth making a 108-minute orbital flight in his Vostok 1 spacecraft.

Yuri Gagarin


Biography (1934-1968)

First Man in Space PictureYuri A. Gagarin was born in a village of Klushino near Gzhatsk (now in Smolensk Oblast), Russia on 9 March, 1934. His father was a carpenter. After graduating from secondary school in 1949, Gagarin went to several technical schools before joining the Orenburg Higher Air Force School (Russian Air Force) in 1955. He graduated with honours from the Soviet Air Force Academy in 1957. Soon afterward, he became a military fighter pilot. By 1959, he had been selected for cosmonaut training as part of the first group of USSR cosmonauts. He began his cosmonaut training in 1960, along with 19 other candidates.


Cold War History

The Cold War was a Communist threat from Cuba.

On 12 April, 1961 newly elected President John F. Kennedy was concentrating on a surprise invasion of Cuba by USA Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space and the first to orbit the planet Earth. It was one of the twentieth century’s greatest human achievements.

This was the beginning of the Space Race between the USA and USSR.


Vostok 1.

Yuri Gagarin flew only one space mission. On 12 April 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first person to travel in space, orbiting the Earth aboard Vostok 1. The rocket lifted off at 9:06 am on April 12, 1961 with Gagarin in the Vostok 1 spacecraft.

Once in orbit he had no control over his spacecraft. Vostok’s re-entry was controlled by a computer program sending radio commands to the space capsule. Although the controls were locked, a key had been placed in a sealed envelope in case an emergency situation made it necessary for Gagarin to take control.

After a single 108 minute orbit  of Earth, Vostok 1’s retro rocket fired to begin re-entry.

He ejected after reentry into Earth’s atmosphere and landed by parachute safely to the ground in the Saratov region of the USSR. As the first human to fly in space, he successfully completed one orbit around the Earth.

Vostok spacecraft weighed about 4,540kg (10,000 pounds). The highest point of his orbit (apogee) was about 327km (203 miles) above Earth sea level. The flight lasted 108 minutes. His backup was Cosmonaut German Titov.


After the First Orbit Flight

After he became the first human to orbit Earth, Gagarin became an international symbol for the Soviet space program and in 1963 was appointed deputy director of the Cosmonaut Training Center. In 1966 he served as a backup crewmember for Soyuz 1 and on 17 February, 1968, completed a graduate degree in technical sciences.


Moon Flight

The USSR also had plans to go to the moon and at one time Gagarin, desperate to make a second spaceflight, was suggested as the back-up for the mission to land a cosmonaut on the moon.

During flight training in a MiG-15 aircraft on 27 March 1968, Gagarin was killed when his plane crashed. At the time of his death, Yuri Gagarin was in training for a second space mission.


Did you know?

* On April 12, 1961, the Russian cosmonaut became the first human launched into space. On the same date 20 years later in 1981, the first USA Space Shuttle Columbia was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

* Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space less than a month later.


Books and other Merchandise:

Yuri Gagarin: The First Man in Space by Heather Feldman. (Reading level: Ages 4-8)
From Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukAmazon.ca


Yuri Gagarin Links:

Yuri Gagarin:
Yuri Gagarin: Info and Pictures
Yuri Gagarin: by astronautix.com
Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre:
Russia Remembers Space Hero: from BBC.co.uk


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