The first person to travel to space was a Soviet cosmonaut. Yuri Gagarian orbited Earth for 108 minutes on April 12, 1961.
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF
He did something no one had ever done before…
There are buildings, ships, streets, and an even an entire town named after him…
You can find statues and monuments bearing his likeness in at least a dozen cities and there are several movies about him.
Yet, the chances are good, you’ve never heard of the guy.
Here’s a hint: April 12th, 1961. That’s the day Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into outer space. The Soviet cosmonaut was only 27- years-old when he circled the globe 203 miles above the earth. Gagarin immediately became a hero throughout most of the world but the accomplishment sent shock waves throughout the United States. This clearly put the Soviet Union ahead of the U.S. in the so-called space race.
Among other reasons, Yuri got the job because of his intelligence, his physical abilities, and…his size. Since his space craft was less than eight feet in diameter, it helped that he was only five-foot-two. Fortunately, Yuri didn’t have to endure the tight fit for long since the trip only lasted 108 minutes. Even so, it’s a good thing he wasn’t claustrophobic.
Yuri instantly became an international celebrity. The affable young man was honored by the United Nations, led parades throughout the world, and is considered one of the Soviet Union’s greatest heroes. But sadly, he didn’t get to enjoy his popularity for long. On March 27th, 1968, he was killed when his plane crashed on a routine test flight.
As for the space race, Yuri is at least partially responsible for the United States landing a man on the moon. Before Yuri’s flight, President Kennedy considered cutting back America’s space program to save money. Afterward, Kennedy reversed course and announced he wanted an American on the moon by the end of the 60’s. That goal was realized on July 20th, 1969.
Oh, in case you’re wondering, the word “cosmonaut” roughly translates into “sailor of the universe”….a title that fits Yuri perfectly.