Gagarin, Yuri

Yuri Gagarin was a Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human in outer space and the first to orbit the Earth. He was born Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin on March 9, 1934 in the village of Klushino near Gzhatsk. His parents worked on a collective farm, and like millions of people in the Soviet Union, his family suffered during Nazi occupation in World War II. As a child, Gagarin became interested in space and planets and began to dream about his space tour. His teachers described him as intelligent and hard-working. His mathematics and science teacher had flown in the Soviet Air Forces during the war, which made an impression on Gagarin. He was selected for training at a technical high school in Saratov, and while he was there he joined an aviation club and learned to fly a light aircraft. In 1955, after completing his technical schooling, he entered military flight training at Orenburg Pilot’s School. He met Valentina Goryacheva at the school and married her two years later. Upon his graduation, he was assigned to Luostari airbase in Murmansk Oblast. He became Lieutenant of the Soviet Air Force on November 5, 1957 and received the rank of Senior Lieutenant on November 6, 1959.

In 1960, Gagarin was selected for the Soviet space program. He was subjected to experiments designed to test his physical and psychological endurance and went through training for the upcoming flight. On April 12, 1961, Gagarin became the first man to travel into space, launching to orbit aboard the Vostok 1. In 1962, he began serving as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. He became Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet Air Force on June 12, 1962 and received the rank of Colonel of the Soviet Air Force in November. Despite his training and expertise, Soviet officials tried to keep him away from any flights to avoid losing him in an accident. Gagarin was backup pilot for Vladimir Komarov in the Soyuz 1 flight, but when Komarov’s flight ended in a fatal crash, Gagarin was banned from participating in further spaceflights.

Gagarin then became deputy training director of the Star City cosmonaut training base. On March 27, 1968, while on a routine training flight from Chkalovsky Air Base, he and flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin died in a crash and were both buried in the walls of the Kremlin on Red Square. Russian documents showed that the KGB conducted their own investigation of the crash and dismissed various conspiracy theories. The report states that an air traffic controller provided Gagarin with outdated weather information, and that by the time of his flight, conditions had deteriorated significantly. The ground crew also left external fuel tanks attached to the aircraft. Gagarin’s planned flight activities needed clear weather and no outboard tanks. As a result, Gagarin’s aircraft entered a spin and could not get out of it.