Monday, April 12, 2010

1st Man In Space 49 Years Ago Today

On this date in 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, orbiting the Earth once before returning safely. He became a worldwide celebrity as a result, touring Italy, Germany, Britain, and Japan before settling in as the deputy director of the Star City cosmonaut training base.  

Afraid they might lose a national hero and a propaganda tool, the Soviets banned him from further space flights.  As a result, he began to re-qualify as a fighter pilot. He tragically died just a few years later (along with his instructor) in 1968, however, when the MiG they were flying crashed for unknown reasons still debated today. Gagarin had just turned 34 years old.  Embedded below is a 3 minute clip of his historic space mission, starting with his pre-flight procession to the Vostok 1, and continuing through his flight and safe landing, all incongruously (but not unpleasantly) set to dance music.

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