Universe Guide

Who was the first man in space?

The first person in space was Cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin on April 12th, 1961. It is nearly four years after the Russians kick-started the Space Age by launching the first satellite into space, Sputnik 1. The Russians had beaten the Americans to have the first satellite, animal and now they had beaten the Americans to have the first human in space.

The United States and the U.S.S.R. were in a Cold War, where their ideologies had caused friction. Both countries were racing to beat each other, both were building nuclear weapons and trying to better themselves over the other one. Both had been allies during the devastating war in the previous decade but now friendship had turned to competition.

Yuri Gagarin was born on 9th March 1934 in Klushino, a town to the west of Russia. He had two sisters who were separated from him during the world when the Germans invaded. He longed to become a pilot and when the opportunity presented itself, he didn't hesistate.

Whilst at Orenburg School of Aviation, he would meet his future wife who he would have two daughters with. When they were looking for suitable people to go into space, Yuri put himself forward and was able to gain the position.

He took off onboard the Vostok 1 space capsule on April 12th 1961. His flight into space only lasted 89 minutes in orbit but it was sufficient to get his name in the record books. Yuri became an instant celebrity worldwide. The Russians milked him for celebrating status, he travelled the world being congratulated on his feat. Because of the cold war and that the Russians had beaten the Americans, Yuri was not welcomed in the United States.

At the young age of 34 and not long after his birthday, he would die in a plane crash near the town of Kirzhach, a town to the north east of the captial, Moscow.

The first American would go into space a month later on May 5th 1961. The American was Alan Shepard onboard the Mercury 7 craft. Alan was the second person to go into space.

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