Yuri Gagarin

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  • Yuri Gagarin in 1963
    Credit: RIA Novosti Archive
    Name: Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin
  • Born: 9th March 1934
  • Died: 27th March 1968 (aged 34)
  • Nationality: Russian
  • Occupation: astronaut, pilot
  • Time in space: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Yuri Gagarin grew up on a farm near Gzhatsk, Russia, USSR. Gzhatsk has since been named Gagarin in his honour. His father was a carpenter. Yuri graduated from trade school as a moulder (someone who makes wooden moulds for objects cast from metal). He then went to industrial college and learned to fly a plane. 

Following college, Yuri joined the Soviet Air Force. He was promoted to Senior Lieutenant and selected for the Soviet Space Programme. This took place during the Space Race. This was a fight between the USSR and the USA to be the best at spaceflight. It was a race against time to be the first to put a human into space.

In 1961, Yuri was the first person to travel to space. He travelled on the Vostok 1 spacecraft and completed an orbit of the Earth in 1 hour 29 minutes. Yuri was awarded many medals and titles during his lifetime. These included the USSR's highest honour, Hero of the Soviet Union. Yuri tragically died in 1968 when a plane crash claimed his life and the life of his co-pilot.