Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (1934 1968), a Russian military officer was the first man in space and the first to orbit the Earth on that same flight. His small stature, 5 ft. 2 in., was instrumental in getting him assigned to fly the mission in the Vostok 1 with its decidedly cramped cockpit. It was not, however, a reflection of the size of the impact his flight would have on the world.
Born March 9, 1934 in Gzhatsk (renamed Gagarin in 1968) to Alexei Ivanovich Gagarin and Anna Timofeevna, he was the third of four children. He became interested in the planets and space flight at a young age and had prophetic dreams of being the on a mission in space. His mother was an avid reader and her habits would have an impact on Yuri as he was regarded by his teachers as a bright and hardworking student, although he could be mischievous at times. One of his teachers (mathematics and science) had been in the Russian Air Force and, given Yuri's career, had had a positive impact on his student.
While attending a technical high school, Gagarin joined an Aero Club' and learned to fly light aircraft. After completing his technical training in 1955 he entered the military flight training school at Orenburg where he met Valentina Goryacheva. The two were married in 1957 after Yuri completed his training.
Gagarin, along with 19 other prospective cosmonauts, joined the Russian space program in 1960. The following months were filled with training in the operation of the spacecraft he might fly as well as physical and psychological testing. He was selected for the flight and on April 12, 1961, he realized his childhood dream and rode the Vostok 1 into space. He entered the spacecraft as a Senior Lieutenant but left it with the rank of major. He had been given a field' promotion during the flight.
He was a hit with the media of the world and with the crowds that came to see the Columbus of the Cosmos' during a world tour that included Italy, Germany, Canada and Japan. It was back to work in 1962 as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet before being made the deputy training director of Star City. He also decided to re-qualify as a fighter pilot. That decision led to his death along with that of his instructor on March 27, 1968 during a training flight. The exact details or the accident are unknown although a number of causes have been suggested. All of the suggested events are plausible and fit the known facts but it is not possible to select one with any absolute certainty.