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From the time when the first satellite was launched into space in 1957 to now, astronauts have travelled space, Neil Armstrong among others has walked on the moon, and technology has discovered many planets and stars in space.

Four years later, in 1961, Russian Astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel to space. He was in Vostok 1, which took one circle around Earth and returned safely.

In this post, we will discover more about this Russian cosmonaut, his journey to space, a brief on his educational and family background, and some interesting facts. Read on.

The Journey To Space

Vostok 1 spacecraft was used in Yuri’s space mission. It took a circle of the Earth with a speed of 27,400 kilometres per hour. The spacecraft lasted 108 minutes—from the time it launched to landing. Yuri did not land on the flight, though.

He ejected when returning to Earth and landed by parachute. During his journey to space, he experienced challenging times, especially when his flight lost contact with Earth for approx. 23 minutes.

They accomplished the mission amidst the space war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Yuri achieved one of the biggest milestones in his life through this mission and became an international hero. He was even awarded the title “Hero of the Soviet Union”. The flight launched in Kazakhstan and landed on a farm in the Russian city of Saratov.

How The Mission Started?

Gagarin’s trip to space pushed the Soviet Union ahead of the United States in the space race. It led President John F. Kennedy to announce that humans would travel to the moon. The mission was a milestone, not just for Yuri, but for the Soviet Union. The country had been struggling for technological advancement until Vostok 1 took the Russian cosmonaut to space, giving the Soviets an edge over its space race rival.

By World War II, America and the Soviet Union were declared as the two most powerful countries, so strong that if one of the nations declared a world war, both countries would be destroyed and wreak havoc worldwide. The Soviet Union started the space war with Sputnik, the artificial satellite. It was launched in 1957. Americans did not stay silent, though.

They launched Explorer 1 just a year later. The competition grew to the point that launching humans was the next big step for both countries. The Soviet was again the first in the race. The US responded to the Soviet’s victory by initiating the Apollo program, under which, the humans from the states walked on the moon.

A Brief On Yuri Gagarin: Educational Background And Family History

Yuri was born on March 9, 1934, to a carpenter in a small village in Russia. His mother was a farmer and had four children, including Yuri. He struggled a lot in his early life, especially during World War II. The Nazis took over his house, forcing him and the family to move into a small hut.

He completed his college in Saratov and joined the Soviet Air Force Cadet School where he finished his graduation. Gagarin was beaten badly by Germans for refusing to work for them.

Yuri had always been fascinated by airplanes and would craft model aircraft. He completed his graduation in 1957, after which, he joined the Soviet Air Force. He worked hard and got promoted from lieutenant to senior lieutenant.

During this time, he shared his interest in becoming a cosmonaut and traveling to space. The Soviet Union started selecting a man to go into space in 1960 discreetly. The selection criteria were a bit tough. It required candidates between 25 and 30 years, less than 72 kg, and no taller than 5’7.

Of the 154 candidates that qualified for this criterion, they picked the 20 best candidates. Each selected one had to vote for one candidate they wanted to see in the Vostok 1 apart from themselves. Most candidates, except the three, voted for Gagarin. His exceptional performance, dedication, and commitment made him the first man to go into space.

Vostok 1 Spacecraft

The Soviet bought Vostok 1 from ICBM. It was designed to launch nuclear weapons in America but was then repurposed into a spacecraft that could accommodate humans. Yuri was one of the 20 pilots selected for the space program. They picked him because of his short height, fitness, and physique that could fit easily into the capsule.

The spacecraft was fully automated and re-entered Earth automatically, although it also had manual controls for emergencies. Nobody could imagine what effect 0-g would have, so it was fully automated. They gave Yuri an envelope containing a detailed list of codes that would allow him to control the spacecraft manually if something went wrong.

Yuri’s Landing On Earth

Vostok 1 wasn’t prepared for the landing, as the equipment module, which was supposed to be separated from the aircraft, didn’t fully separate, making Yuri experience extreme force, much more than what’s considered normal in a flight. So, he decided to land by parachute.

Around 7 kilometres above the ground, he got out of the aircraft and landed by parachute. He landed on a farm where a farmer and his daughter were astonished watching the Vostok 1 smash on the ground. They saw Yuri landing gently on his parachute in his orange suit. Yuri asked them not to fear him, as he was also a Soviet citizen and the first man to have flown into space.

Conclusion

The Soviet Union space mission, led by Yuri Gagarin, was accomplished, beating the United States in the space war. However, Yuri didn’t survive to see the first man from the US going to the moon. He died in a training program in 1968. His reason for death is still unknown, though. His family background, the struggle in his early life, and his passion for flight helped him become the first man to travel to space. It was his dedication that made him the hero of the Soviet Union and an international celebrity.

 

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