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Yuri Gagarin
Human of the Space Era

Yuri Gagarin (Russian: Ю́рий Алексе́евич Гага́рин (Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin); 9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968) was a Russian Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his "Vostok" spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961.

Gagarin became an international celebrity, and was awarded many medals and titles, including Hero of the Soviet Union, the nation's highest honour. Vostok 1 marked his only spaceflight, but he served as backup crew to the Soyuz 1 mission (which ended in a fatal crash). Gagarin later became deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow, which was later named after him. Gagarin died in 1968 when the MiG-15 training jet he was piloting crashed.

Yuri was born on March 9, 1934 in Klushino, a small village 100 miles west of Moscow. His father was a cabinetmaker, carpenter, bricklayer, and farmer, and his mother was a milkmaid. Together they worked on a kolkhoz or collective farm. By Soviet social standards, his heritage was impeccable. He was the third of four children. During the war, the Nazis threw his family out of their home and took away two of his sisters. Yuri helped his parents dig a dugout where they lived untill the war was over, then the family moved to Gziatsk.

When he was a teenager, he witnessed a Russian Yak fighter plane make a forced landing in a field near his home. It was just returning from battle, its wings bullet-ridden. When the pilots emerged covered in medals, he was extremely impressed. As he later recalled,

"We understood immediately the price that had to be paid for military decorations. We boys all wanted to be brave and handsome pilots. We experienced strange feelings such as we had never known before."

He completed six grades of secondary school where he studied mathematics, his favorite subject, and physics, then went to a trade school where he became a foundry-man. At the same time he read Longfellow's Hiawatha and the works of Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens, as well as the works of the Russian rocket pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935).


Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857 - 1935)

After a year and a half at the trade school, he joined a four-year technical school in Saratov. In his fourth year at school he was offered the chance to join a flying club. And so began the realization of his dream to become a pilot. He took his first solo flight in 1955. He was frequently praised for his ability to handle a plane and his skill in making a smooth landing; "He'll make a wonderful pilot," his instructor and mentor Dmitry Pavlovich Martyanov said.

After graduating from the technical school in 1955, the Soviet Army drafted Gagarin. On a recommendation, Gagarin was sent to the First Chkalov Air Force Pilot's School in Orenburg, and soloed in a MiG-15 in 1957. While there he met Valentina Ivanovna Goryacheva, a medical technician graduate of the Orenburg Medical School. They were married on 7 November 1957, the same day Gagarin graduated from Orenburg.

On 4 october 1957 - the Soviet Union launched the first spaceflight - a Sputnik in space.

Post-graduation, he was assigned to the Luostari airbase in Murmansk Oblast, close to the Norwegian border, where terrible weather made flying risky. He became a Lieutenant in the Soviet Air Forces on 5 November 1957; on 6 November 1959 he received the rank of Senior Lieutenant.

Career in the Soviet Space Program

In 1960, after much searching and a selection process, Yuri Gagarin was chosen with 19 other pilots for the Soviet space program. Gagarin was further selected for an elite training group known as the Sochi Six, from which the first cosmonauts of the Vostok programme would be chosen. Gagarin and other prospective candidates were subjected to experiments designed to test physical and psychological endurance; he also underwent training for the upcoming flight. Out of the twenty selected, the eventual choices for the first launch were Gagarin and Gherman Titov due to their performance during training sessions as well as their physical characteristics — space was limited in the small Vostok cockpit, and both men were rather short.



Gagarin was also a favoured candidate by his peers. When the 20 candidates were asked to anonymously vote for which other candidate they would like to see as the first to fly, all but three chose Gagarin. One of these candidates, Yevgeny Khrunov, believed that Gagarin was very focused, and was demanding of himself and others when necessary.

Gagarin kept physically fit throughout his life, and was a keen sportsman. In addition to being a keen ice hockey player, Gagarin was also a basketball fan, and coached the Saratov Industrial Technical School team, as well as being a referee.


The First Human into Space

On 12 April 1961, the Vostok 3KA-3 (Vostok 1) spacecraft with Gagarin aboard was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Gagarin thus became both the first human to travel into space, and the first to orbit the earth. His call sign was Kedr (Russian: Кедр, Siberian pine or Cedar).

Following the flight, Gagarin told the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that during reentry he had whistled the tune "The Motherland Hears, The Motherland Knows" (Russian: "Родина слышит, Родина знает"). The first two lines of the song are: "The Motherland hears, the Motherland knows/Where her son flies in the sky". This patriotic song was written by Dmitri Shostakovich in 1951 (opus 86), with words by Yevgeniy Dolmatovsky.

Some sources have claimed that Gagarin commented during the flight, "I don't see any God up here." However, no such words appear in the verbatim record of his conversations with Earth-based stations during the spaceflight. In a 2006 interview, Gagarin's friend Colonel Valentin Petrov stated that the cosmonaut never said such words, and that the quote originated from Nikita Khrushchev's speech at the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU about the state's anti-religion campaign, saying "Gagarin flew into space, but didn't see any god there." Petrov also said that Gagarin had been baptised into the Orthodox Church as a child, and a 2011 Foma magazine article quoted the rector of the Orthodox church in Star City saying, "Gagarin baptized his elder daughter Yelena shortly before his space flight; and his family used to celebrate Christmas and Easter and keep icons in the house."


After Vostok 1

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. He visited the United Kingdom three months after the Vostok 1 mission, going to London and Manchester.

The sudden rise to fame took its toll on Gagarin. While acquaintances say Gagarin had been a "sensible drinker", his touring schedule placed him in social situations where he was always expected to drink. Gagarin was also reportedly caught by his wife in a room with another woman, a nurse named Anna who had aided him after a boating incident earlier in the day, at a Black Sea resort in September 1961. He attempted to escape by leaving through a window and jumping off her second floor balcony, hitting his face on a kerbstone and leaving a permanent scar above his left eyebrow.

In 1962, he began serving as a deputy to the Soviet of the Union, and was elected to the Central Committee of the Young Communist League. He later returned to Star City, the cosmonaut facility, where he spent seven years working on designs for a reusable spacecraft. He became a lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Forces on 12 June 1962, and received the rank of colonel on 6 November 1963. Soviet officials tried to keep him away from any flights, being worried of losing their hero in an accident.


Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space and Gagarin

On 20 December 1963 Gagarin had become deputy training director of the Star City cosmonaut training base. Two years later he was re-elected as a deputy to the USSR, but this time to the Soviet of Nationalities. Next year he began to re-qualify as a fighter pilot.[citation needed] On 17 February 1968 he defended his aerospace engineering thesis on the subject of spaceplane aerodynamic configuration with flying colors.




Yuri Gagarin with his daughters and wife

On 27 March 1968, while on a routine training flight from Chkalovsky Air Base, he and flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin died in a MiG-15UTI crash near the town of Kirzhach. The bodies of Gagarin and Seryogin were cremated and the ashes were buried in the walls of the Kremlin on Red Square.

Gagarin was survived by his wife Valentina, and daughters Yelena and Galina. Yelena Yurievna Gagarina, Yuri's elder daughter, is an art historian who has worked as the director-general of the Moscow Kremlin Museums since 2001. His younger daughter, Galina Yurievna Gagarina, is department chair and a professor of economics at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow.

Aside from his short stature at 1.57 metres (5 ft 2 in), one of Gagarin's most notable traits was his smile. Many commented on how Gagarin's smile gained the attention of crowds on the frequent tours he did in the months after the Vostok 1 mission success.

Gagarin also garnered a reputation as an adept public figure. When he visited Manchester in the United Kingdom, it was pouring rain. However, Gagarin insisted that the car hood remain back so that the cheering crowds could catch a glimpse of him. Gagarin stated, "If all these people have turned out to welcome me and can stand in the rain, so can I." Gagarin refused an umbrella and remained standing in his open-top Bentley so that the cheering crowds could still see him.

Sergei Korolev, one of the masterminds behind the early years of the Soviet space program. He is a father of the Russian Sputnik and Gagarin, and the Space Era of Humankind.


Sergei Korolev (1906 - 1966)


They were the first




Soviet Space Station "Mir"
from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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