Yuri Gagarin was born on 9th March 1934 in a village called Klushino, near Gzhatsk (renamed Gagarin in 1968) in the Smolensk region of Russia. He lived with his father, Alexei Ivanovich; mother, Anna Timofeyana; brothers, Valentin and Boris; and a sister, Zoya.
Gagarin went on to train as a foundry man at Lyubertsy Steel Plant in Moscow (which had a training facility on site) and then on to the Saratov Industrial Technical School, whilst there he joined the Saratov Flying Club and learned to fly the YAK-18 and MiG-15 in his spare time. After graduating from Saratov Industrial Technical School with excellent marks he decided to continue his career in the air force.
Gagarin was drafted into the Soviet Military School in Orenburg in 1956. He graduated from the flight school and was posted as a Lieutenant to the Nikel Airbase in Luostari, Murmansk near the Arctic Circle. Whilst he was there, a recruitment team began physical and mental test on many pilots. In January 1960 Gagarin was informed that he had been accepted for Cosmonaut training in Star Town (Star City) in Moscow.
On 12th April 1961 Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin became the first human in space and the first person to orbit the Earth. The Vostok-1 spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur launch site at 06:07 UTC* (09:07am Moscow time). Gagarin's flight lasted 108 minutes, this including 89 minutes in space. He completed one orbit of the Earth, travelling at 27,400 kilometres per hour.
At the highest point, Gagarin was 327km (203miles) above sea level.
Gagarin's achievement made him a worldwide celebrity and his first world tour, to promote the Soviet achievement, included visits to, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Finland, The United Kingdom (London and Manchester), Iceland, Cuba, Brazil, Canada and Hungary.
In July 1961, as part of his first world tour, he visited London and Manchester and was given a heroes welcome by the people of the UK.
"...I really became hooked on Space exploration in 1961 after a chance encounter with this man – Yuri Gagarin – the first man in Space and overnight the most famous man on Earth. In the summer of '61 he embarked on a world tour. He met the Queen; the Prime Minister and then me. Well nearly..."
Prof. John Zarnecki
Principal Investigator of the Surface Science Package on the Huygens spacecraft's, which landed on Saturn's moon, Titan, in 2005. More...
During the remainder of his life, Gagarin worked on several space missions and trained other cosmonauts. They continued to achieve world firsts in space travel, paving the way for future generations.
In 1965 Gagarin re-entered mission training as a back-up cosmonaut. He enrolled in the Institute of Aeronautical Engineering and in 1967 began training for the first Soyuz flight.
Unfortunately, Gagarin did not get to travel into space again, nor did he live to see a man land on the moon in 1969.
Colonel Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin died on 27th March 1968. He was on a routine test flight in a Mig-15 UTI when it crashed killing him and his co-pilot Colonel Vladimir Serëgin. Their funeral took place on 30th March and their remains are buried in the Kremlin wall in Moscow.
*UTC – Coordinated Universal Time (GMT can be classed as the equivalent, when fractions of a second are not important)
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