Gagarin: The 50th anniversary of human space flight
2011-04-12 0:00

Compiled by Elizabeth Leafloor |

Gagarinís first space trip celebrated 50 years on
By Barry Neild |

Fifty years after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarinís Vostok spacecraft blasted off from the steppes of Soviet Kazakhstan and into the history books, the epic flight of the first human in space was being celebrated Tuesday.

Gagarin spent 108 minutes crammed inside a tiny capsule completing the first ever orbit of Earth before landing back on Soviet soil in what was seen as a major coup for Moscow in its Cold War space race with the United States.
Half a century on, long after the Soviet Unionís demise heralded a new era of global space cooperation, Gagarinís flight was being commemorated by enthusiasts on Earth, in orbit and in cyberspace.

A film shot from the International Space Station painstakingly recreating the April 12, 1961 orbit was broadcast on YouTube, launched to coincide with the Gagarinís 9.07am Moscow-time blast off.

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Gagarin Photo Gallery - CNN

Russia releases Gagarinís secret "last words"
by Dmitry Zaks |

One of the last things Yuri Gagarin did before making his pioneering voyage into space 50 years ago was make sure he had enough sausage to last him on the trip back home to Moscow.

This tidbit was among more than 700 pages of once-secret material linked to the life and times of the worldís first spaceman that were released by Russia ahead of the April 12 anniversary.

The historic space shot turned Gagarin into an instant celebrity whose boyish charms became a powerful propaganda weapon for the Soviet Union as it scrambled to win its ideological battle against the United States during the Cold War.

His boy-next-door grin and outsized helmet became a staple of Soviet stamps while his heroism turned into a subject of elementary school literature that became comparable to the teachings of Lenin.

Yuri Gagarin as a student, 1950. Image:Getty

Russian authorities -- with their own space programme in trouble -- have grabbed on to that glory by making the Gagarin celebrations into a national event stretching from the halls of the Kremlin to the International Space Station.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is planning a visit to the mission control centre outside Moscow while his mentor and predecessor Vladimir Putin will hold his own meeting with Russian and Ukrainian cosmonauts in Ukraine.

But making the biggest news among Russians this weekend were files revealing the conversation Gagarin had while strapped into his capsule with chief rocket designer Sergei Korolyov -- a man who became a legend in his own right.

Gagarin is best remembered by a generation of Russian for pronouncing "Poyekhali!" as his Vostok spacecraft lifted off the ground.
The phrase can be translated as either "Letís Go!" or "Weíre Off!" and is now a regular part of the Russian lexicon.

But the Russian Internet was abuzz with what Gagarin said moments before his famous catchphrase.

One of Korolyovís biggest worries appeared to be that the would-be hero had enough to eat once he touched down on Earth.

"There in the flap you have dinner, supper and breakfast," the father of the Soviet rocket programme told Gagarin by radio as the clock ticked down.
"Got it," Gagarin replied in comments originally posted on the website.

"Youíve got sausage, candy and jam to go with the tea," Korolyov went on. "Sixty-three pieces -- youíll get fat! When you get back today, eat everything right away."

Gagarin joked back: "The main thing is that there is sausage -- to go with the moonshine."

Korolyov appeared to take the joke in stride.
"Damn. This thing is recording everything, the bastard," the scientist said in reference to the relay recorders.

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From Wikipedia:

In August 1960, when Gagarin was one of 20 possible candidates, an Air Force doctor evaluated his personality as follows:

Modest; embarrasses when his humor gets a little too racy; high degree of intellectual development evident in Yuriy; fantastic memory; distinguishes himself from his colleagues by his sharp and far-ranging sense of attention to his surroundings; a well-developed imagination; quick reactions; persevering, prepares himself painstakingly for his activities and training exercises, handles celestial mechanics and mathematical formulae with ease as well as excels in higher mathematics; does not feel constrained when he has to defend his point of view if he considers himself right; appears that he understands life better than a lot of his friends.

óSoviet Air Force doctor

Aside from his short stature at 5 ft 2 inches, one of Gagarinís most notable traits was his smile. Many commented on how Gagarinís smile gained the attention of many in the crowd on the frequent tours Gagarin did in the months after the Vostok 1 mission success, particularly when he visited Manchester in the United Kingdom. Sergei Korolev, one of the masterminds behind the early years of the Soviet space program later said that Gagarin possessed a smile "that lit up the Cold War".

Image: Source

In 1962, he began serving as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. He later returned to Star City, the cosmonaut facility, where he spent seven years working on designs for a reusable spacecraft. He became Lieutenant Colonel (or Podpolkovnik) of the Soviet Air Force on 12 June 1962 and on 6 November 1963 he received the rank of Colonel (Polkovnik) of the Soviet Air Force.[6] Soviet officials tried to keep him away from any flights, being worried of losing their hero in an accident. Gagarin was backup pilot for Vladimir Komarov in the Soyuz 1 flight. As Komarovís flight ended in a fatal crash, Gagarin was ultimately banned from training for and participating in further spaceflights.

Gagarin had become deputy training director of the Star City cosmonaut training base. At the same time, he began to re-qualify as a fighter pilot.

On 27 March 1968, while on a routine training flight from Chkalovsky Air Base, he and flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin died in a MiG-15UTI crash near the town of Kirzhach. The bodies of Gagarin and Seryogin were cremated and the ashes were buried in the walls of the Kremlin on Red Square.

The cause of the crash that killed Gagarin is not entirely certain, and has been subject to speculation and conspiracy theories over the ensuing decades.

Monument of Yuri Gagarin on Cosmonauts Alley in Moscow.

First Orbit - the movie

Video from:

"A real time recreation of Yuri Gagarinís pioneering first orbit, shot entirely in space from on board the International Space Station. The film combines this new footage with Gagarinís original mission audio and a new musical score by composer Philip Sheppard. For more information visit"

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