Who was Yuri Gagarin, the first man to fly in space?

Who was Yuri Gagarin?

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, by his full name, was born on March 9, 1934 in the village of Klouchino, located almost 200 kilometers west of Moscow in Russia. Third of a sibling of four children, he lives in a kolkhoz – a collective farm – where his parents work, carpenter and milkmaid.

Family life changed in 1941 when war broke out in Russia. The Nazis bombed and occupied the village before requisitioning Gagarin izba. The family is forced to take refuge in a rudimentary shelter. In 1943, his older brother and sister were deported to a camp in Poland. It is only at the end of the war that the family will learn that they have survived.

Meanwhile, the young Yuri still lives in Klouchino, where bombings and famine are widespread. By observing Soviet fighter jets, he gradually developed a passion for aircraft and piloting. When the village was liberated in 1944, the family moved to settle about twenty kilometers away in the town of Gjatsk.

Life goes on again, but the young man is determined not to follow in the footsteps of his parents. He leaves them to go to Moscow.

What studies did Yuri Gagarin do?

Yuri Gagarin could have become a gymnast. To secure a career, he eventually studied foundry and then agricultural machinery. He does not forget his passion for flying. He joined an amateur aviation club in the city of Saratov. His first flight aboard a machine is enough to confirm his call. He then continued his studies while taking pilot training. Until 1955, when he decided to give up the first to devote himself to his passion and enter a military flight school.

Two years later, at the age of 23, he graduated as a fighter pilot and was assigned to a squadron based in Murmansk Oblast. Meanwhile, Yuri marries Valentina Goriatcheva, a nurse. Their first daughter was born two years later in 1959.

How did Yuri Gagarin become a cosmonaut?

That same year, 1959, the fate of the then 25-year-old pilot changed again when the Soviet space program launched its first cosmonaut selection campaign. He volunteered. 3,000 candidates are selected, then 200, then twenty. Gagarin is part of the party. his small size, about 1.60 meters, plays for him. The future space capsule offers a limited space, recruiters are actually targeting small sizes.

During training and exams, he gradually differs from the other members of the group by many qualities: a good memory, a good ability to analyze his environment, a mastery of mathematics or even participation in ‘coaching’. When the group was reduced to six, Gagarin was finally appointed to take part in a first flight in April 1961.

How was Yuri Gagarin’s first flight into space?

The stakes are high and the mission dangerous. This is the very first flight for a human in space. After intense training and test flights of the Vostok spacecraft, D-Day was finally set for April 12, 1961. At 9:07 local time, Gagarin took off aboard the capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He starts with a happy voice “Let’s go !“While the operation is to bring it into orbit 250 km above the Earth.

Five things to know about Yuri Gagarin’s escape into space

At 9.12 he declares via radio: “I see the Earth, it’s beautifulEleven minutes after takeoff, the spacecraft is put into orbit and begins its journey around Earth. The trip will last 1 hour and 48 minutes, including 1 hour and 29 minutes in orbit. At 10:57 the cosmonaut is back on Land he landed on a field near Saratov, near the Volga No one was there to welcome him, the calculations had designated another landing site.

Gagarin, wearing a helmet and in an orange spacesuit, encounters a peasant woman and her granddaughter working in a kitchen garden. First scared, they then take him to a nearby farm, where he calls to tell them he has landed and where he is. He will be received two days later, on April 14, in Moscow, and triumphantly greeted by Nikita Khrushchev and other Soviet officials.

An unprecedented flight … and some technical glitches

The mess at the landing site is not the only mistake that occurred during Gagarin’s flight. After take-off, the spacecraft in particular reached a much higher orbit than expected, which gave rise to concern that the trip could be much longer. An incident also took place during the launch of retro rockets that were to trigger atmospheric re-entry into Earth.

This failure made the descent much more agitated than expected for Gagarin, who nevertheless managed to push out of his capsule. It was also long believed that the cosmonaut had returned to Earth aboard his ship. Vostok did not have a retro rocket, in fact it was never. Gagarin completed his parachute descent after throwing himself 7,000 feet above the ground.

Yuri Gagarin, first man in space and national hero

With this flight on April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel in space. An achievement that instantly elevates him to the status of a national hero and allows him to achieve international fame. After becoming an unofficial ambassador of the Soviet Union, he was sent to the four corners of the world, where he was invited to many receptions.

Russia: how Yuri Gagarin entered the Pantheon of popular legends

Gagarin perfectly fulfills his mission as an “instrument of Soviet propaganda,” and the blonde with blue eyes does not fail to seduce with her disarming simplicity. The story goes that during a dinner he won the Queen of England by admitting with a smile that he did not know which fork to use.

The Soviet leaders want the cosmonaut, who has become an important symbol, to give up his training and new flights. But Gagarin has no plans to stop there. In 1965, he was retained in the Soviet manned lunar program team. The goal is to send a cosmonaut to the Moon, preferably before the Americans.

But the program encounters many problems, which on April 24, 1967 led to the death of Vladimir Komarov, Gagarin preferred to lead the first mission. The hope of a new trip to space is shattered for the pilot, who already has almost no time to fly, and who is banned from any solo trip with fighter jets.

How did Yuri Gagarin die?

In 1968, Gagarin, then 34 years old, was again allowed to resume training. On the morning of March 27, 1968, he took off for a scheduled flight aboard a Mig-15 aircraft from Chkalovsky Military Airport near Moscow. He’s not coming back. The pilot made a final radio call a few minutes after takeoff. Since then, no news.

Keep looking for him: the wreckage of his plane is found about sixty miles from the air base. The bodies of Gagarin and his instructor are discovered the next day. The news of his death came as a shock. For the first time in the history of the USSR, a day of national mourning is observed for a person who is not head of state.

Yuri Gagarin and his wife Valentina Tereshkova sign autographs at a forum in Moscow in 1964. © RIA Novosti Archive, photo # 615544 / Yuriy Somov / CC-BY-SA 3.0

No details are given about the causes of the accident, his death quickly raises questions. A commission of inquiry is set up to find out what happened, but its report is never published in its entirety, forcing some experts to conduct their own investigations.

Half a century later, Gagarin’s death remains a state secret in Russia

Even today, we do not know the exact origin of the crash of Mig-15. In 2011, the Kremlin’s archives announced that “one of the probable causes“of the plane crash was the presence of a weather balloon, which the pilots would have tried to avoid before losing control of the plane. A thesis that was questioned by several specialists.

Recently, another version has emerged: the accident was caused by a Sukhoi plane, which should not have been there, and which crossed the path of Gagarin’s machine. By crossing the sound barrier, the pilot would have caused the latter to spin and crash. The theory is supported by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, a member of the 1968 commission of inquiry.

According to him, the commission hid the truth to protect the surviving pilot, but when asked by the public agency Ria Novosti, he refused to reveal his identity, adding only that it was a man.KnownHowever, no document has been released confirming this scenario, giving rumors free play.

Among them, one confirms that the cosmonaut would have been killed by the Kremlin, jealous of his popularity, another that he was drunk at the time of the flight; others more far-reaching suggest that his death would have been falsified in order to detain him in a psychiatric asylum, or that he would have been kidnapped by aliens.

A completely remembered

This mysterious death no doubt contributed to the Gagarin legend, which still exists. It remains today for the Russians “most attractive personality of the 20th century“, according to opinion polls. And many tributes to him. Many streets and schools bear his name, and the town of Gjatsk was renamed in his honor in 1968. A lunar crater and an asteroid are also named after him. ‘after him.

Another long-respected tribute: legend has it that before his start in Baikonur in 1961, the cosmonaut would have urinated on one of the rear wheels of the bus that led him to the launch pad. At each launch from the Kazakh base, the astronauts had become accustomed to doing the same thing to bring good luck.

The story of Yuri Gagarin has also inspired several films. The latest is a Russian biography, Gagarin: First in the room, published in 2013 and directed by Pavel Parkhomenko. Recently, a wink to the cosmonaut has also been made in the French film Gagarin directed by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh. It tells the story of young Yuri, 16, a resident of the Gagarin residential area who is being torn down in Ivry-sur-Seine, who dreams of becoming an astronaut.

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