Yuri Gagarin

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Who: Russian pilot and cosmonaut.

What: First man in space.

Where: Space, duh.

Why: Part of the Space Race.

When: Born 9th March 1934, Launched 12th April 1961, Died 27th March 1968.

Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!” – Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin, for 108 minutes in 1961, became the first ever human being launched into space. For the rest of his short life, he was a worldwide celebrity, winning scores of awards and travelling the world. Born near what is now the town of Gagarin in the Smolensk Oblast in Russia, he was drafted into the Soviet Army in 1955 and recommended for the Air Force. In 1960, he was selected with 19 other pilots for the Soviet space program, where he impressed due to his performances and his diminutive height, which suited the small space capsule (he was 5ft 2in, or 1.57m). He launched on 12th April 1961, returning to earth 108 minutes later. He was an instant celebrity. He travelled the world and was awarded a chest full of medals from lots of different countries. But the sudden rise to fame took its toll on the normally affable and cheerful Gagarin. In September 1961, his wife reputedly caught him with another woman in a resort, and he attempted to escape through the window, hitting his face on a kerb and leaving a scar. He died in 1968 in a routine jet crash at the tragic age of 34.

Further reading:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/space/solarsystem/astronauts/yuri_gagarin

http://www.russianarchives.com/gallery/gagarin/

http://yurigagarin50.org/

http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/whos_who_level1/gagarin.html

http://www.firstorbit.org/yuri-and-vostok-1

Yuri Gagarin saying hello to the press during ...

Yuri Gagarin saying hello to the press during a visit to Malmö, Sweden 1964. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yuri Gagarin.

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