How Yuri Gagarin manages to be the first to travel to space? | News

This Wednesday would be the 88th birthday of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968), who on April 12, 1961 became the first human being to travel to outer space and orbit the planet Earth. But, how does a Russian of humble and peasant origin manage to accomplish such a feat?


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Yuri Alekséyevich Gagarin was born on March 9, 1934 in the town of Klúshino, which today receives his name. Before joining the Soviet Air Force, he worked at a steel foundry in the city of Lyubertsy.

According to his daughter, Elena Gagarina, Yuri discovered his vocation as a pilot during World War II, after rescuing a Soviet pilot from a plane shot down by German troops.

He graduated in 1956 from the Orenburg aviation school with MiG-15 training and was later promoted to lieutenant. With 265 flight hours accumulated, he entered the Space Program of the Soviet Union where he was approved among 154 applicants for the Vostok Program.

USSR space race

In the midst of a context colored by the contradictions of the Cold War, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) began in 1958 to develop systems for a manned orbital navigation and reconnaissance satellite.

While the United States was preparing the Atlas missile, with an orbital payload capacity of more than a ton, the Soviets were involved in the Vostok project. This program comprised a piloted craft and two reconnaissance satellites.

Among Vostok’s first executions was Korabl-Sputnik 2, which carried the dogs Belka and Strekla into orbit as well as bringing them back to Earth. However, in 1960, of the five launches that entered orbit, only two returned.

However, finally in 1961 the Soviet authorities approved the launch into space of a Vostok spacecraft manned by a human being. For this project, Yuri Gagarin was appointed as the pilot and Gherman Titov as backup.

The launch of Vostok 1

On April 12, 1961, around 06:00 UTC, the Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft, popularly known as Vostok 1, was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) with Yuri Gagarin on board. Through the radio Gagarin communicated that: “Come on! Goodbye, see you soon, dear friends.”

Gagarin’s flight lasted 108 minutes and consisted of an orbit to the Earth with an altitude of 315 kilometers. The ship was equipped with food, radio and television for monitoring mission conditions.

In Earth orbit, Gagarin expressed his famous phrase: “Our Earth is blue”. At an altitude of 7,000 meters, the cosmonaut was thrown from the capsule and landed by parachute in the town of Smelovka, Saratov province.

With the launch of Vostok 1, the USSR won a victory over the United States in the space race, demonstrating the technological capacity and high technical level of Soviet science. In short, humanity managed to take a huge step in the exploration of space.