April 12, 1961 - Yuri Gagarin

By: Jack O’Donnell

Yuri Gagarin was a Russian cosmonaut who was the human to orbit the Earth. On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin launched into space and orbited the earth. The flight lasted 108 minutes and Gagarin orbited the earth about one and a half times. The space craft was called the Vostok 1 and was a radio-controlled craft. Gagarin launched into space and orbited at a speed of about 27,000 miles per hour. When he was in decent, he ejected about 4 miles up into earth’s atmosphere and parachuted down to earth. The Vostok 1 was equipped with 10 days’ worth of food in case the decent calculations were wrong, and the orbit had to naturally decay.  Gagarin died while flying a MIG-15.

This was an important step in the Cold War because the Soviets had put a man in space before the Americans. The Cold war was not only a war of nuclear might but also a war of technological achievements. The United States and the Russians were in a scramble to launch things into space after Sputnik was launched. The United States was trying to beat the soviets in the Space Race.

Yuri Gagarin left a tradition in the Russian space community by urinating on the back-right tire of the bus that transported him the launch pad. Now every male astronaut urinates on the back-right tire of the transport bus before every flight into space, the female astronauts splash a cup of their urine onto the tire. Yuri Gagarin was so important to the field of science that the Apollo 11 astronauts left a medallion of his on the surface of the moon.