Yuri Gagarin

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Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin
Image:Yuri Gagarin official portrait.jpg
 Nationality Soviet
 Born March 9, 1934
Klushino, USSR
 Died March 27, 1968
Kirzhach, USSR
 Occupation1 Pilot
 Rank Soviet Air Force Colonel
 Space time 1 hour, 48 minutes
 Selection Air Force Group 1
 Mission(s) Vostok 1
Mission insignia Image:Vostok1patch.png
 1 previous or current

Colonel Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (Russian: Ю́рий Алексе́евич Гага́рин, Jurij Alekseevič Gagarin; March 9, 1934March 27, 1968), was a Soviet cosmonaut who in 1961 became the first human in space and the first human to orbit the Earth.


[edit] Early life

Yuri Gagarin was born in Klushino near Gzhatsk, a region west of Moscow, Russia, on March 9, 1934. The town would be renamed Gagarin in 1968 to honor Yuri. His parents worked on a collective farm. While manual labourers are described in official reports as "peasants," this may be an oversimplification if applied to his parents - his mother was reportedly a voracious reader, and his father a skilled carpenter. Yuri was the third of four children, and his elder sister helped raise him while his parents worked. Like millions of people in the Soviet Union, the Gagarin family suffered great hardship in World War II. His two elder siblings were "taken away" to Germany, apparently as conscripts, in 1943, and did not return until after the war. His teachers described Gagarin as intelligent and hard-working, if occasionally mischievous. His mathematics teacher flew in the Red Army Air Force during the war, which presumably made some substantial impression on young Gagarin.

After starting an apprenticeship in a metalworks as a foundryman, Gagarin was selected for further training at a high technical school in Saratov. While there, he joined the "AeroClub," and learned to fly a light aircraft, a hobby that would take up an increasing proportion of his time. Through dint of effort, rather than brilliance, he reportedly mastered both; in 1955, after completing his technical schooling, he entered military flight training at the Orenburg Pilot's School. While there he met Valentina Goryacheva, whom he married in 1957, after gaining his pilot's wings in a MiG-15. Post-graduation, he was assigned to an airbase in the Murmansk region, near the Norwegian border, where terrible weather made flying risky. As a full-grown man, Gagarin was 5 feet 2 inches (approx. 157.5cm) tall.

[edit] Career in Soviet space program

[edit] Selection and training

In 1960, an extensive search and selection process saw Yuri Gagarin, as one of 20 cosmonauts, selected for the Soviet space program. Along with the other prospective cosmonauts, he had been subjected to a punishing series of experiments designed to test his physical and psychological endurance, as well as training related to the upcoming flight. Out of the 20 selected, the eventual choices for the first launch were Gagarin and Gherman Titov, because of their excellent performance in training, as well as their physical characteristics - space was at a premium in the small Vostok cockpit. Gagarin's last-minute assignment, approved at the highest levels of the CPSU, to take the historic flight, may have been due to Gagarin's modest upbringing and genial, outgoing personality, as opposed to the middle-class and somewhat aloof demeanor of Titov. Soviet officials weighed other factors as well in selecting Yuri: his appearance, his capacity to handle media attention, his Russian heritage and even the name "Gagarin" which was also a family name associated with Tsarist aristocracy.[citation needed]

[edit] Space flight

On April 12, 1961, Gagarin became the first human to travel into space in Vostok 3KA-2 (Vostok 1). His call sign in this flight was Cedar (Russian: Кедр). According to international media, from orbit Gagarin made the comment, "I don't see any God up here." There are, however, no such words in the full verbatim record of Gagarin's conversations with the Earth during the spaceflight <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>.

He is also known in Russian history as "The Columbus of the Cosmos."

While in orbit Gagarin was promoted "in the field" from the lowly rank of Senior Lieutenant to Major - and this was the rank at which TASS announced him in its triumphant statement during the flight. At the time the Soviet authorities thought it was more likely he would perish during his descent than survive.

During his flight, Gagarin famously whistled the tune "The Motherland Hears, The Motherland Knows" (Russian: "Родина слышит, Родина знает")<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>. The first two lines of the song are: "The Motherland hears, the Motherland knows/Where her son flies in the sky"<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>. This patriotic song was written by Dmitri Shostakovich in 1951 (opus 86), with words by Dolmatovsky.

Safely returned, Nikita Khrushchev rushed to his side and Gagarin issued a statement praising the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as the "organiser of all our victories." Khrushchev saw Gagarin's achievement as a vindication of his policy of strengthening the Soviet Union's missile forces at the expense of conventional arms. This policy antagonized the Soviet military establishment and contributed to Khrushchev's eventual downfall.

After the flight, Gagarin became an instant, worldwide celebrity, touring widely with appearances in Italy, Germany, Canada, and Japan to promote the Soviet achievement.

From 1962 he served as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet, but later returned to "Star City", the cosmonaut facility, where he worked on designs for a reusable spacecraft.

[edit] Death and legacy

Image:Monument to Yuri Gagarin in Moscow.jpg
40-meter monument to Yuri Gagarin in Moscow, made of titanium. It was erected in the USSR in July 1980.
Image:Yuri Gagarin Memorial Plaque.jpg
Yuri Gagarin Memorial Plaque - presented to the USSR on January 21, 1971. Accepting the plaque at the Moscow ceremony was Soviet Gen. Kuznetsov, commander of the USSR's Star City space base, where cosmonauts have been training since 1960. Gagarin, who made history with his 1 hour and 48 minute flight, lost his life in a training accident on March 27, 1968.

Gagarin then became deputy training director of Star City. At the same time, he began to requalify as a fighter pilot. On March 27, 1968 he and his instructor died in a MiG-15UTI on a routine training flight near Kirzhach. It is uncertain what caused the crash, but a 1986 inquest suggests that the turbulence from a Su-11 interceptor airplane using its afterburners may have caused Gagarin's plane to go out of control. Weather conditions were also poor, which probably contributed to the inability of Gagarin and the instructor to correct before they crashed.

In his book "Two Sides of the Moon"<ref name="LeonovBook">Leonov, Alexei, Scott, David (2004). Two Sides of the Moon (in en), 218-. ISBN 0-312-30865-5.</ref> Alexei Leonov recounts that he was flying a helicopter in the same area on that day when he heard "two loud booms in the distance". Corroborating the above hypothesis, his conclusion is that a Sukhoi jet (which he identifies as a Su-15), flying below its minimum allowed altitude, "without realizing it because of the terrible weather conditions, passed within 10 or 20 meters of Yuri and Seregin's plane while breaking the sound barrier". The resulting turbulence would have sent the MiG into an uncontrolled spin. Leonov believes the first boom he heard was that of the jet breaking the sound barrier, and the second was Gagarin's plane crashing.

Image:Gagarin-Seregin Memorial.jpg
Memorial on the place of the fatal crash that killed Gagarin and Seregin

A new theory, advanced by the original crash investigator in 2005, hypothesises that a cabin vent was accidentally left open by the crew or the previous pilot, thus leading to oxygen deprivation and leaving the crew incapable of controlling the aircraft.<ref name="ScotlandSunday-GagarinInquiry">Template:Cite web</ref>

Many figures in his life published memoirs involving Yuri including his mother and his wife in 1983. [citation needed]

There were two commemorative coins issued in the Soviet Union to commemorate 20th and 30th anniversaries of his flight: 1 ruble coin (1981, copper-nickel) and 3 ruble coin (1991, silver). In 2001, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Gagarin's flight, a series of four coins bearing his likeness was issued in Russia:2 ruble coin (copper-nickel), 3 ruble coin (silver), 10 ruble coin (brass-copper, nickel), 100 ruble coin (silver). <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Gagarin's name

FAI,Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, Gold Medal, awarded since 1968 is named after Gagarin <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>. A crater on the far side of the Moon, and an asteroid 1772 Gagarin are named after him. In Russia Gzhatsk was renamed Gagarin in 1968, a square in Moscow featuring a large monument to Gagarin is named after him. Cosmonauts Training Center in Star City bears his name since 1968. There are also numerous streets, avenues and squares bearing Gagarin's name in Russian towns.

[edit] References in pop culture

  • A Flock of Seagulls have a 'bonus track' upon the 1983 release of Listen that was on the Cassette only (not available on CD until 1987) and not the LP. One of the three bonus tracks was "the last flight of Yuri Gagarin" which was an instrumental.
  • One of the first references to Gagarin is in the 1971 Paul Stookey song Ju Les Ver Negre En Cheese. Gagarin is the first "word" and first two letters of the second "word". The entire song is written in English with all the spacing between letters changed [1].
  • Italian songwriter Claudio Baglioni in 1977 published a song entitled "Gagarin" (contained in the album "Solo"), completely inspired by the flight of the famous cosmonaut. Official site.
  • The rock band Ozma released two songs on their Russian Coldfusion EP and then again on the Double Donkey Disc. They were entitled "The Flight of Yuri Gagarin" and "The Landing of Yuri Gagarin".
  • Russian electronica duo PPK's track "ResuRection" features recordings of Gagarin's flight toward the end of the song.
  • PJ Harvey has a track on her album Rid of Me called "Yuri-G," where she fantasizes about the moon and being a cosmonaut.
  • Gagarin is mentioned by Captain Marko Ramius along with the Sputnik satellite in the film The Hunt for Red October as an example of the former greatness of the Soviet Union.
  • Space-rock band Hawkwind has a live concert album titled 'Bring Me the Head of Yuri Gagarin'.
  • Manu Chao in his song "Infinita Tristeza" (Infinite Sadness) uses sound collages including a radio voice of Yuri Gagarin.
  • Gorki, a band from Belgium, made a song about Yuri, called Joerie and placed him on the cover of the song's album.
  • Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Swedish pop/jazz trio, recorded in 1999 album called "From Gagarin's Point of View".
  • In the game Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Snake gives a quote that was credited to Gagarin, "The earth was blue, and there was no God," during a discussion of Russia's first manned space flight.
  • Witch Season, the third album from San Francisco band The Court & Spark closes with "Titov Sang the Blues," about Gherman Titov and his runner-up status to Yuri for first flight.
  • The Ukrainian rock band Vopli Vidopliassova wrote a song called "Yura" about Gagarin for their album Muzika.
  • The Phenomenauts mention Yuri Gagarin in their space race-themed song, "Progress vs. Pettiness" off their 2004 album "Re-entry."

[edit] See also

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

[edit] References

<references />

  • Michael D Cole Vostok 1: First Human in Space, Enslow Publishers, Inc. Aldershot, UK, Springfield, New Jersey, 1995. ISBN 0-89490-541-4.
  • Doran, Jamie, and Bizony, Piers: Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998 (paperback version, 1999). ISBN 0-7475-4267-8.

[edit] External links

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Yuri Gagarin

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