Who is Yuri Gagarin?

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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2019
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Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, also known as "The Columbus of The Cosmos," is a hero of the Soviet Union born on 9 March 1934. Gagarin was the first man to venture into space when in 1961 he orbited the Earth aboard Vostok 1. The flight took 108 minutes and was considered by many at the time, the greatest human achievement in history.

Gagarin was born in the Klushino village, near Moscow. His parents were farm laborers who worked most of the day, so Gagarin was raised by his older sisters and spent much of his time around his teachers and other adults. This seemed to have influenced his dedication to study, as he was eventually selected and sent to a technical high school on a different city. There, Gagarin learned to fly, first as a hobby, and eventually as a way to join Orenburg Military Pilot's School.


Gagarin was selected for the Space Program in 1960 partly because of his size. He was 5 foot 2 inches (1.57 m), which meant he could fit into small cockpits and maneuver better in confined spaces. Gagarin was also pleasant and easygoing, which the government saw as an asset when considering later media involvement. During the flight, Gagarin was supposed to record everything he observed, but he wasn't in charge of the flying. Because there was no way of knowing how a person's mind and body would react in space, it was considered too risky to allow the occupant of the spacecraft to pilot it. The Vostok 1 was controlled from Earth via remote control.

After successfully completing the flight, Gagarin became an instant celebrity. He was promoted to Major, toured through Europe and Asia, and eventually was assigned to the legislative body of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, where he served as a deputy.

Gagarin stayed close to the space program by working on spacecraft design and later taking a post as a training director. His brilliant career, which included plans for a second space trip, was cut short when he was killed on a training flight. Gagarin was hoping to restart his career as a fighter pilot, and was actively training on MiG-15UTI planes. He and his flight instructor lost control of the plane during turbulence and crashed near Kirzhach.


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