The First Hu­man in Space

Rus­sia picked Yuri Ga­garin for the first space­flight

YOU Gateway to Space - - Contents -

POYEKHALI! Off we go! With these words Soviet cos­mo­naut Yuri Ga­garin shot into the sky in his Vos­tok and be­came the first per­son ever to fly into space and or­bit Earth. He was very calm, but back on the ground the Vos­tok de­vel­oper Sergei Korolev was so ner­vous he had to be given tran­quil­lis­ers. It was a highly dan­ger­ous mis­sion – so dan­ger­ous Ga­garin left a let­ter for his wife Valentina say­ing it was un­likely he would re­turn.

For­tu­nately she never re­ceived the let­ter be­cause the mis­sion turned out to be a huge suc­cess, turn­ing Ga­garin into an overnight celebrity. Af­ter the flight he toured the world and even had lunch with Queen El­iz­a­beth.

“I see Earth – it is so beau­ti­ful,” Ga­garin ra­dioed as he sped over Siberia and Ja­pan. A nd1 08 min­utes later the or­bit was com­plete, the cap­sule started to de­scend and seven kilo­me­tres above Earth, Ga­garin ejected from the space­craft and parachuted down while the cap­sule crashed to the ground.

Ga­garin, an air force pi­lot, was known to be in­cred­i­bly fo­cused. This and his quick re­ac­tions were two qual­i­ties that se­cured him the op­por­tu­nity to take the first space­flight. His short stature also helped – at 1,57 m tall, he was one of fe ww ho could ac­tu­ally fit into the tiny Vos­tok cap­sule.

Ye­lena Ga­ga­rina, one of his two daugh­ters, de­scribed her fa­ther as out­go­ing and a keen sports­man. He was also mod­est and a bril­liant math­e­ma­ti­cian – and he had a smile that “lit up the Cold War”, said Korolev, who was lead Soviet rocket en­gi­neer and space­craft de­signer in the Space Race.

Ga­garin be­gan mil­i­tary flight train­ing in 1955 at age 21 and in 1960 he was se­lected for the Soviet space pro­gramme.

Of­fi­cially, Amer­ica con­grat­u­lated the Soviet Union on the his­toric mile­stone. Un­of­fi­cially, the yw ere an­noyed that the Rus­sians were first to put a hu­man in space. The yw ere also con­cerned that the Sovi­ets could now launch nu­clear weapons from space.

Ga­garin never made an­other space­flight – au­thor­i­ties de­cided he was too valu­able to be ex­posed to such dan­ger.

Iron­i­cally, he died while on a rou­tine train­ing flight on 27 March 1968 when his MiG-15 fighter plane crashed in the Rus­sian town of Kirzhach. He was just 34 years old.

When Amer­i­cans Neil Arm­strong and Bu zzA ldrin be­came the first peo­ple on the moon in 1969, they left be­hind a satchel with medals com­mem­o­rat­ing, among oth­ers, Ga­garin.

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