Monday, April 11, 2011
With the words "Let's go (Poyekhali)!" on the morning of April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin blasted off from the Baikonur launch site in a Vostok 1 spacecraft. During his brief 108-minute flight, Gagarin made one orbit around Earth, attaining a speed of over 27,000 kilometers per hour and an altitude of 327 kilometers, and thereby becoming the first human in space. (The first animal in space, incidentally, was the dog, Laika, launched by the Soviets on Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957; unfortunately, Laika died during the mission).
Gagarin was 27 at the time of his momentous spaceflight, having been born on March 9, 1934. He had graduated from the Soviet Air Force Academy in 1957, and was chosen to train among the first group of Soviet cosmonauts. He never made a second space launch, and was killed while piloting a MIG15 jet during a training mission on March 27, 1968.
Note: The video here was produced by Roscosmos TV-Studio. Other Gargarin-related resources include the Russian Federal Space Agency (English version); YuriGagarin50.org (UK); and NASA (US).