Soviet citizens greeting Gagarin as he returns home.

As the Nuclear Arms race was in full swing, the USSR was looking for something new to show the world why they were the better than the US. Sergei Korolev, the lead scientist of the Soviet’s space program, had the answer. Having a lot of help from the ballistic research done by the military, and working in isolation as a prisoner in Sharashka throughout most of his research and work, Korolev finally gave the USSR what they needed.

On April 20th, 1961 the first manned mission to space, aboard the Vostok 1, was deemed successful by the USSR. The first man to go into space, Yuri Gagarin, returned safely (pictured right) to earth and instantly became a hero of the USSR. Funny enough, “Yuri’s triumphant walk through Red Square in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands made him more nervous and afraid than his historic flight,” (Russian Archives).

As the successful mission reached the rest of the worlds ears, the US frantically began their mission to best the USSR. However the damage was done. The USSR proved to the world that they had the technology to put a man in space, thus making them more feared and respected on the international stage. Before the decade was over two more cosmonauts would be launched into stardom; German Titov, and the first woman cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova. It would be another 8 years until the US would best the USSR and make the historic landing on the moon.

Sources:

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History- http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1961gagarin&Year=1961&navi=byYear

Russian Archives – http://russianarchives.com/gallery/gagarin/gagarin4.html

Picture- Matthew Cullerne, ed.: Soviet socialist realist painting 1930-1960s. Oxford: Museum of Modern Art. 1992.