The first person in space: Who is Yuri Gagarin?

Gagarin was very short (1.57 meters), which was a very important criterion in his selection as the first human in space. Oh, why? Because that first spacecraft was very small an astronaut was needed to fit into that small space.

By Jane Dickens Published on 5 Kasım 2023 : 20:29.
The first person in space: Who is Yuri Gagarin?

Yuri Gagarin later became one of the first cosmonauts of the Vostok Program, the Soviet Union's human spaceflight program. Of the 20 selected, the final choices for the first flight were Gagarin and Gherman Titov, due to their physical attributes as well as their performance in training. Space was at a premium in the small Vostok spacecraft, and both men were quite short. Gagarin was 1.57 meters tall. Therefore, his height provided a great advantage for Gagarin.

Summary: Yuri Gagarin was born in the Soviet Union on March 9, 1934, as the child of a farmer family. II. After growing up in the shadow of World War II, he joined the Soviet Union Space Program as a military pilot. On April 12, 1961, he passed the difficult qualifications and became the first person to go into space as the pilot of the Vostok-1 spacecraft. His success made a huge impact around the world and marked the beginning of a new era for humanity.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin[a] (9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968) was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut who, aboard the first successful crewed spaceflight, became the first human to journey into outer space. Travelling on Vostok 1, Gagarin completed one orbit of Earth on 12 April 1961. By achieving this major milestone for the Soviet Union amidst the Space Race, he became an international celebrity and was awarded many medals and titles, including the nation's highest distinction: Hero of the Soviet Union.

Yuri Gagarin took his place in history as an unforgettable hero and still does. The reason for this is that he holds the title of being the first person to go into space. However, it is worth noting that: Yuri Gagarin did not write his name in history just because he broke new ground, what made him unforgettable were the steps he took with great devotion and courage while achieving this success and the inspiration he gave to humanity. So how did Yuri Gagarin turn into a pioneering cosmonaut who shed light on the whole world?

Here's the story.

Yuri Gagarin was born on March 9, 1934 in Klushino. His father, Aleksey Ivanovich Gagarin, worked as a carpenter, and his mother, Anna Timofeyevna Gagarin, worked on a farm as a milkmaid. Yuri Gagarin was the third of the family's four children. Yuri Gagarin's childhood was spent under the danger of World War II. When the Germans occupied Moscow in November 1941, the war also hit the Gagarin family. The family had to live in a hut they made from mud. Later, two of Yuri Gagarin's brothers were captured by the Nazis and sent to Poland. After the end of World War II, Yuri Gagarin moved to Gzhatsk in 1946 and continued his secondary school education there. During these years, his interest in space and planets began. He even had dreams about space flights.

After a period of apprenticeship as a foundryman in a metal factory, Gagarin was selected for further training at a technical high school in Saratov. His favorite subjects were mathematics and physics. His success in these lessons was visibly noticeable. Here, Gagarin joined a club called “AeroClub” and learned how to fly light aircraft. At this point, he realized that his dream was to be a pilot.

He planned to enter the Soviet Army in 1955. However, he later changed his mind and entered the Chkalov Air Force Pilot School. Two years later, he reached the level of flying the MiG-15 aircraft alone. When he made his first flight, he was often praised for his ability to handle an airplane and make a smooth landing. “He will be a great pilot,” said his instructor and mentor Dmitry Pavlovich Martyanov. Yuri Gagarin graduated with honors and was promoted to the rank of Senior Lieutenant in 1959.

Yuri Gagarin, the First Man in Space

He served as a military pilot between 1957 and 1960. His first assignment as a fighter pilot was at a Soviet Air Force base in the Poles, where he made his first flights under the aurora. While stationed there, the Soviets launched Luna-3, which photographed the far side of the Moon for the first time. Yuri Gagarin was very impressed by this event and at that point, he said that a human space flight should be made soon.

When the Soviet Union aimed to send a human into space, a secret nationwide election process began in 1960. Gagarin was included in the Soviet space program after intense selection in 1960 and was selected for an elite training group known as the "Sochi Six", which would form the first cosmonauts of the Vostok program. Gagarin and other prospective cosmonauts were subjected to experiments designed to test physical and psychological endurance; they also trained for the upcoming flight. As can be expected, these trainings were quite challenging and stressful. Gagarin spent long periods in so-called sensory deprivation chambers, was subjected to weightlessness experiments, his endurance was tested in heat chambers, and he made test flights under great pressure, with his every reaction monitored. For example, he had to solve extremely difficult math equations while a speaker was playing very loudly. This is exactly where Yuri Gagarin's difference emerged. It seemed that all the unique features that form the basis of being a cosmonaut/astronaut and the steps of the stairs leading to space were gathered in Gagarin. He remained calm even under so much stress and pressure. He worked tirelessly until the training was completed, and while doing all this, he never compromised his joy and sense of humor. His fellow cosmonauts described Gagarin during their training days as follows: “A pretty good friend. Whatever he does, he does it with his heart, he is principled, brave, and determined. “He is also a humble leader.”

Yuri Gagarin later became one of the first cosmonauts of the Vostok Program, the Soviet Union's human spaceflight program. Of the 20 selected, the final choices for the first flight were Gagarin and Gherman Titov, due to their physical attributes as well as their performance in training. Space was at a premium in the small Vostok spacecraft, and both men were quite short. Gagarin was 1.57 meters tall. Therefore, his height provided a great advantage for Gagarin.

In August 1960, when Gagarin was one of 20 possible candidates, an Air Force doctor described Gagarin's personality as: “Pretty humble. He has a shy nature even when his humor is a little dirty. He has a high degree of intellectual development. His memory is incredible, almost fantastic. He distinguishes himself from his colleagues with his keen and comprehensive sense of attention to his surroundings. He has a strong imagination. His reflexes are extremely fast. Determined, he meticulously prepares himself for his activities and training exercises. He handles celestial mechanics and mathematical formulas with ease and excels in higher mathematics. If he sees himself as right, he does not feel forced or constrained when he has to defend his point of view. "He seems to understand life better than many of his friends."

Gagarin was also a candidate who was loved and respected by his colleagues. They asked 20 candidates to say which candidate they wanted to fly first. The entire team, except three, voted for Gagarin.

Finally, the day everyone had been waiting for with bated breath had arrived. On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin was launched into space at 09.07 from Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Vostok-1 vehicle. As a result of the successful launch, he became the first person in space. Additionally, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth. It touched down at 10:55 after climbing as high as 187 miles (301 km).

With this success, Yuri Gagarin made perhaps the most important breakthrough in humanity's space adventure. He became famous worldwide. Gagarin's flight escalated the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, which had been engulfed in the Cold War after World War II. The United States would respond to this move by the Soviet Union by sending humans to the Moon for the first time in 8 years.

Yuri Gagarin managed to attract the attention of the world media. It became the Soviet Union's biggest trump card in the space race. He was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union by the Soviet Union government. Gagarin celebrated his success by visiting many countries around the world. In 1962, he began to assist the Soviet Union with various tasks. The government was trying to prevent Gagarin, who had become the favorite of the whole world, from flying to protect him from any accidents.

Yuri Gagarin married Valentina Ivanovna Goryacheva, whom he met while studying at the Chkalov Pilot School, in 1957. The couple had two children.

Yuri Gagarin died on March 27, 1968, during a test run of the MiG-15 model aircraft. Various rumors have been put forward for years about Gagarin's accident. Among these were allegations that he was drunk during the flight or that he was deliberately killed. Another claim is that the pilot's cabin suddenly opened during the flight, Gagarin lost control of the plane, and if he had had 2 more seconds, he had a chance to regain control. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space and the pioneer of the space age, passed away at the age of 34 while pursuing his beloved profession.