Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was born 9 March 1934 in Gzhatsk (Smolensk Oblast, RSFSR). His mother, Anna Timofeyevna, and his father, Aleksei Ivanovich, were ordinary peasants from Klushino in Gzhatsk Raion. They gave young Yura a good work ethic and saw to it that he became a considerate person. Having lived through difficult times during the German occupation, the Gagarin family moved in 1945 from Klushino to Gzhatsk. After his graduation from secondary school, Yura entered Vocational School 10 in Lyubertsy on 30 September 1949, studying moulding and casting, finishing in June 1950. In August 1950, he entered Saratov Industrial College. On 25 October 1954, he started flight instruction at the Saratov flying club. In 1955, he graduated from Saratov Industrial College, and on 10 October 1955, he finished his flight training at the Saratov flying club. On 27 October 1957, Gagarin married Valentina Ivanovna Goryachyova, who was his faithful companion for many years. Their family grew; they had two daughters, Lena and Galya.
On 26 December 1957, he reported to the Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Northern Fleet. Learning about a candidate search for testing new technology, on 9 December 1959, Gagarin requested transfer to this group. On 18 December, they ordered him to report to Moscow, to go to the Central Scientific Research Aviation Hospital for a health test. On 3 March 1960, Lieutenant General of Aviation Kamanin presented Senior Marshal of Aviation Vershinin (commander of the VVS) with a list of selected pilots… the candidate cosmonauts. On 11 March 1960, Gagarin started this new phase of his life. On 25 March, the cosmonaut-training programme began in earnest. On 12 April 1961, Gagarin became the first man to make a space flight, flying the Vostok 1. He won the Hero of the Soviet Union, and the day of Gagarin’s spaceflight became a holiday… Cosmonautics Day, starting from 12 April 1962. With this endeavour, Gagarin opened up the Road to the Cosmos.
In 1966, Gagarin became an Honorary Fellow of the International Academy of Astronautics, and, in 1964, he became commander of all Soviet cosmonauts. In June 1966, Gagarin started training under for the Soyuz programme. He became backup to Komarov, who made the first flight on the new ship. His own scheduled flight wasn’t far off… in the meantime, on 17 February 1968, Gagarin defended his thesis project at the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy. The State Examinations Commission awarded him certification as a qualified pilot-cosmonaut engineer. Until his last days, Gagarin served as deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. In his honour, the state renamed his hometown Gzhatsk “Gagarin”. His name will forever remain in the cosmos, which he reimagined for mankind… one of the largest (250-kilometre-diameter) crater on the far side of the moon is named for Gagarin. That is symbolic… it’s located between Tsiolkovsky Crater and the Sea of Dreams. In 1968, the International Aeronautical Federation established a medal named after Gagarin, which it awards to individuals who make special contributions to air and space exploration. Gagarin’s name has long been synonymous for pioneers in any field of activity on a par with Columbus. Gagarin wrote in his diary shortly before his death on 12 March 1968, “I have no greater desire than the desire to fly. A pilot must fly. Always fly”. On 27 March 1968, he died in an air crash near Novoselovo Kirzhachsky (Vladimir Oblast) during a routine training flight. His ashes are in the Kremlin Wall on Red Square in Moscow.
9 March 2015