Who was Yuri Gagarin, the first man to travel into space

Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) was a star of the space race between Russia and the United States during the Cold War. But who was he? THE cosmonaut – term used to refer to Russian astronauts – made the first space trip in human history aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft, on April 12, 1961, exactly 61 years ago.

Museum of Cosmonautics in MoscowMuseum of Cosmonautics in MoscowFonte:  Shutterstock

Charming and owner of an always ready smile, Gagarin it was used by the Russians as a powerful propaganda tool for the Soviet Union. Learn more about the crew’s story below.

A juventude de Yuri Gagarin

O cosmonaut Russian, also known in Brazil as Iuri Gagarin, was the third of four siblings. He was born on March 9, 1934, in Klushino, a village near the city of Gzhatsk. In 1968, after his death, Gzhatsk was renamed in his honor. Gagarin.

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) in a 1961 photoRussian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) in a 1961 photoSource: Public Domain

Son of peasants who worked on a collective farm, Yuri studied to be a molder, but his life changed when he enrolled in an aviation course. Upon completion, he entered the Soviet Air Force’s cadet school, the Orenburg Military Pilot School, graduating in 1957.

Russian Vostok rocket, used to send Yuri Gagarin into spaceRussian Vostok rocket, used to send Yuri Gagarin into spaceFonte:  Shutterstock

In the city, he met Valentina Goryacheva, whom he married – shortly after graduating aboard a Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG-15) fighter aircraft. He was assigned to Luostari air base, where he became a lieutenant in the Soviet air force the same year. He was promoted to senior lieutenant on November 6, 1959.

How was Yuri Gagarin chosen?

During the selection process, Yuri was selected into an elite group known as the “Sochi Six” – the first cosmonauts of the Vostok program. Gagarin was chosen in a process that involved 20 other candidates.

O cosmonaut and his colleagues underwent physical and psychological endurance experiments and flight training. In the end, the choice was between Gagarin and Gherman Titov.

To knock Iuri it was difficult because of his charisma: Sergei Korolev – the USSR’s chief rocket designer –, having met the pioneer cosmonauts, spent most of the meeting talking to him. He would later call him his “little eagle”.

Monument in honor of Yuri Gagarin (right), on Gagarin Square in MoscowMonument in honor of Yuri Gagarin (right), on Gagarin Square in MoscowFonte:  Shutterstock

During training, the cosmonaut he was described by a Soviet Air Force doctor as modest, awkward – “when his mood gets a little sassy” – with high intellectual development and a fantastic memory.

Among his attributes, the doctor also highlighted that Gagarin he distinguished himself from his peers by his ability to pay attention to his surroundings and his well-developed imagination.

The doctor’s attention was also drawn to his quick reactions and perseverance. According to him, Yuri he meticulously prepared for his training activities, handled celestial mechanics and mathematical formulas with ease, and felt no embarrassment in defending his views. And he ended with: “it seems like he understands life better than many of his friends.”

And they agreed: when 20 candidates were asked to vote anonymously which other candidate they would like to see as the first to fly, 16 of them chose Gagarin.

Monument detail in the Museum of Cosmonautics in MoscowMonument detail in the Museum of Cosmonautics in MoscowFonte:  Shutterstock

In addition to all the attributes, as space was at a premium in the Vostok spacecraft’s small cockpit, the crew needed to be small. AND Gagarin he was only 1.57 meters tall.

Thus, he was the first person to orbit the Earth, in a flight of 1 hour and 48 minutes, at a maximum altitude of 301 km, landing by parachute on a farm in Engels, in the Soviet Union.

A fama de Iuri Gagarin

After space travel safely returned to Earth, worldwide fame was immediate – with several monuments erected in his honor and several streets in the Soviet Union renamed after him (well, even a city).

The Vostok mission was a secret until Gagarin returned successfully. After the safe landing, the news was carried far and wide by the state news agency Tass – the Soviet Union had beaten the US by performing the first manned flight.

Though I never went to space again, Gagarin trained several others cosmonauts and, in 1962, he became a deputy. He never gave up sports, and he liked ice hockey. His official position was goalkeeper.

The Death of Gagarin

Although the Soviets tried to keep Yuri away from aircraft, fearing losing him in some fatality, the first man to travel to space died young, at the age of 34, precisely as a result of an air accident on a routine training flight. The collision involved yet another pilot, who was manning a two-seater jet plane along with the cosmonaut.

The ashes of Yuri Gagarinthe first human to see the Earth as blue when viewed from the outside, were placed in a niche in the wall of the Kremlin, the fortified complex that houses the Russian government structure on Red Square.

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