Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin
Born | ,
Died | ,
Time Spent in Space: | 1 hour, 48 minutes
Yuri Gagarin was born in near , a region west of Moscow, Russia, on March 9, 1934. The town would be renamed Gagarin in 1968 to honour Yuri. His parents worked on a collective farm. While manual labourers are described in official reports as "peasants," this may be an oversimplification if applied to his parents - his mother was reportedly a voracious reader, and his father a skilled carpenter. Yuri was the third of four children, and his elder sister helped raise him while his parents worked. Like millions of people in the Soviet Union, the Gagarin family suffered great hardship in . His two elder siblings were "taken away" to Germany, apparently as conscripts, in , and did not return until after the war. His teachers described Gagarin as intelligent and hard-working, if occasionally mischievous. His mathematics teacher flew in the Red Army Air Force during the war, which presumably made some substantial impression on young Gagarin.
Colonel Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (: Юрий Алексеевич Гагарин, Jurij Alekseeviи Gagarin; , – , ), was a who in became the first human in space and the first human to orbit the Earth.
After starting an apprenticeship in a metalworks as a foundryman, Gagarin was selected for further training at a high technical school in . While there, he joined the "AeroClub," and learned to fly a light aircraft, a hobby that would take up an increasing proportion of his time. Through dint of effort, rather than brilliance, he reportedly mastered both; in , after completing his technical schooling, he entered military flight training at the Orenburg Pilot's School. While there he met Valentina Goryacheva, whom he married in , after gaining his pilot's wings in a . Post-graduation, he was assigned to an airbase in the region, near the , where terrible weather made flying risky. As a full-grown man, Gagarin was 5 feet 2 inches (approx. 157.5cm) tall.
Career in Soviet space program
Selection and training
In , an extensive search and selection process saw Yuri Gagarin, as one of 20 cosmonauts, selected for the . Along with the other prospective cosmonauts, he had been subjected to a punishing series of experiments designed test his physical and psychological endurance, as well as training related to the upcoming flight. Out of the 20 selected, the eventual choices for the first launch were Gagarin and , because of their excellent performance in training, as well as their physical characteristics - space was at a premium in the small cockpit. Gagarin's last-minute assignment, approved at the highest levels of "the party", to take the historic flight, may have been due to Gagarin's modest upbringing and genial, outgoing personality, as opposed to the middle-class and somewhat aloof demeanor of Titov.
Yuri Gagarin in the bus to a launch pad just before his historic flight on April 12, 1961. Behind him, seated, is his backup, .
On , , Gagarin became the first human to travel into in Vostok 3KA-2 (). His call sign in this flight was (: Кедр). According to international media, from orbit Gagarin made the comment, "I don't see any god up here." There are, however, no such words in the full verbatim record of Gagarin's conversations with the Earth during the spaceflight .
He is also known in Russian history as "The Columbus of the Cosmos."
While in orbit Gagarin was promoted "in the field" from the lowly rank of Senior to - and this was the rank at which announced him in its triumphant statement during the flight. At the time the Soviet authorities thought it was more likely he would perish during his descent than survive.
During his flight, Gagarin famously whistled the tune "The Motherland Hears, The Motherland Knows" (: "Родина слышит, Родина знает").