April 12, 1961- Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man to travel into space. Across Russia, Soviets celebrated this triumph as being not only the first nation to launch something into orbit, but also the first nation to put a live human being into space. Vostok 1 became the first manned spacecraft mission, as it hurled Yuri Gagarin into orbit atop the seventh generation of a German V-2 clone. It seemed as though they had not only caught up to the west but had surpassed the west.
Although the Soviets were proud to have put the first man in space, the had also picked the perfect person to turn into a hero for the Communist cause. Yuri Gagarin was born on a collective farm in 1934. His father worked as a carpenter and his mother was a milkmaid. His family had suffered under Nazi occupation and was forced to live in a small mud hut after being evicted from their home. Yuri Gagarin’s older siblings were also forced into slave labor by the Nazis. Once the war had ended, Yuri Gagarin continued with his education at a vocational school and later joined an aviation club. Soon after being drafted, he was sent to pilot training and graduated at the top of his class. In 1959, he applied to become a cosmonaut and was selected to fly the Vostok 1 space mission.
Upon completion of his 108 minute orbit of the earth, Yuri Gagarin also became an instant international hero. Even American newspapers celebrated the first man in space. He met with many world leaders as an international celebrity.
Here is a clip of communications between Yuri Gagarin and Russian ground control before the launch.
Here is a dramatization of the launch:
Here is an example of the world tours and interviews he gave as the Soviets paraded him around as an international celebrity:
Current Digest of the Russian Press:http://dlib.eastview.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/browse/doc/13793186
Russian based online article:http://sputniknews.com/science/20110330/163289008.html
Russian based online article:http://www.russianarchives.com/gallery/gagarin/gagarin3.html