59 years ago, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin launched on a historic mission. He journeyed where no one had before and returned safely home. He had just become the first person to orbit the Earth.
April 12, 1961, Gagarin became the first person in space, making a 108-minute orbital flight in his Vostok 1 spacecraft. The 27-year-old cosmonaut traveled 327 kilometers above the Earth and orbited the planet at a speed of 27,400 kilometers per hour.
In honor of this historic accomplishment, we have gathered five fast facts about Gagarin and his flight for you to learn more about the first person in space.
1. Gagarin was one of the “Sochi Six,” a group of cosmonauts for the first Vostok missions.
NASA had the “Mercury 7,” the Soviets had the “Sochi Six.”
2. Gagarin was not required to operate the Vostok 1.
The effects of microgravity on the human body were not yet known, so the spacecraft was controlled by people on the ground, along with a computer program.
3. Gagarin didn’t land inside the Vostok 1.
The Vostok 1 wasn’t designed to land, so as it plummeted toward the Earth, Gagarin ejected and parachuted down to safety.
4. Although he was the first person to fly into space, technically, Gagarin’s flight didn’t count as a spaceflight.
Since Gagarin did not land inside his spacecraft, it didn’t count as a spaceflight in accordance with the regulations outlined by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). While the Soviets did not share this detail at the time, it was later discovered.
5. The first people on the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, left a medal of Yuri Gagarin behind.
Out of mutual respect for Gagarin, the first people on the Moon left behind a medal of the man who led the way into the final frontier.