12 Apr 2021 13:50 IST

Remembering Yuri Gagarin, the first person to enter outer space

The Vostok spaceship completed one Earth orbit on April 12, 1961, fuelling Russia’s space race with the US

On international day of Human Space Flight, here’s a quick look at the life of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person to enter outer space. Yuri Gagarin’s 108-minute flight into space 50 years ago set new a horizon for humanity. It turned a farmworker’s son into one of the century’s heroes overnight. Born in the village of Klushino, some 150 km west of Moscow, his father was a carpenter and his mother a milkmaid.

The family was forced to live in a tiny mud hut when the village was burned down during the German occupation in World War Two. The Vostok spaceship piloted by Gagarin completed one Earth orbit on April 12, 1961. Gagarin sung Soviet hymns during the last checks, strapped atop the 30m-high (98 ft) rocket that would blast him into space from the spaceport Baikonur cosmodrome. "Let’s go," he cried in Russian as the space flight launched, in a phrase that has become synonymous with Gagarin in Russia.

This achievement is considered to be one of the Soviet Union’s most enduring Cold War victories even today. It is proudly remembered, especially in the cosmonaut town that is the heart of the nation’s space program known as Star City. Star City is the world’s oldest space-flight training centre and it resembles in many ways a shrine to the first man in space. Gagarin’s premature death in a mysterious plane crash led to widespread speculation. It’s been half a century after his exploit captured the world’s imagination and fuelled a space race with the United States.