In the archive: 50th anniversary of first human spaceflight

Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in 108-minute flight on this day in 1961. This is how Flight recorded the event. 

But he never made a second spaceflight, the world-wide impact of his pioneer achievement was so great that he retired there and then… Gagarin died in a training flight in March 1968.

Flight reporter Maurice Smith wrote: “When I had the pleasure of meeting him I had an immediate impression of warmth and humour… I think a great many people everywhere will feel a personal loss, rather as they did for President Kennedy…”

The British Council (@BritishCouncil) is currently tweeting updates sent, in real time, 50 years after they were first recorded. At the time few details were divulged.

Some biographical details of Yuri Gagarin and why he was chosen to perform the first human spaceflight 

The details of the spacecraft Vostok were revealed in April 1965 for an exhibit in the Soviet Economic Achievement Exhibition.

Earls Court Cosmos – see pictures of the blackened Vostok I capsule, from an exhibit in August 1968. 

Celebrity tour brings him to the UK: Yuri Gagarin comes to Britain

The Year of the Astronauts including a profile on Yuri Gagarin.

Missing cosmonauts named (3 May 1986)

Where were you on this day 50 years ago? Share your memories of this pioneering achievement.  

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3 Responses to In the archive: 50th anniversary of first human spaceflight

  1. Rapier 12 April, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    That day I was in school.
    During the break between classes I saw that my mother was coming.
    I noticed that she was excited.
    I was amazed, this was not a normal thing.
    “What happened?” I asked her.
    And she said: “The Russians have launched a man into space. “

  2. Kevin Fox 12 April, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Your words about Gagarin are incorrect. The linked article says “…the world-wide impact of his pioneer achievement was so great that, had he retired completely there and then, he would still have remained a world figure.”

    In fact, Gagarin didn’t ‘retire there and then.’ Anything but. Following his flight, Gagarin was pivotal to the Soviet space program for many years. He eventually rose to the rank of Colonel in the Soviet Air Force and was the backup pilot for Vladimir Komarov’s ill-fated Soyuz 1 flight. Gagarin never forgave himself for Komarov’s death, an accident he felt was preventable but highly likely due to several critical deficiencies in the Soyuz capsule.

    Gagarin died a year later in a training flight that was part of his re-certification as a fighter pilot before taking up his new role as the deputy training director of the Star City cosmonaut training base.

    Gagarin was the first career astronaut (cosmonaut) and never did anything that resembled resting upon laurels. The Soviet Air Force had to keep him out of the command seat with a stick for fear of losing a national hero.

  3. Nikolaos 26 April, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    In the year 1961 he was known as: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. During the days of the so-called “Cold War” these “silly” things used to play a great role for some people but not for me as both words (astronaut & cosmonaut) are Greek … hahaha! Though for the difference between Russian & Soviet … beats me!!!

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