On this day in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person to go to outer space and the first to orbit the Earth. He made his historic spaceflight for the Soviet Union.
Born to farmer parents, Gagarin became interested in space and planets as a child and got involved with air flight as a high school student. He obtained military flight training before entering the Soviet space program.
Gagarin's famous spaceflight occurred aboard Vostok 1 (pictured here, left). During the 108-minute flight, he whistled a famous tune whose words are “The Motherland hears, the Motherland knows / Where her son flies in the sky.” He also said, “The Earth is blue...How wonderful. It is amazing.”
Some people around the world will be celebrating the “World Space Party” known as Yuri's Night tonight. (Even more people have been celebrating Yuri's Night this past weekend – I guess Monday night isn't a good party night for everybody!)
The theme of Yuri's night is honoring all the people who have made human space exploration possible, feeling united worldwide in our space efforts, and looking to the future with hope of great things.
NOTE: I have to admit I was surprised when I looked at the Yuri's Night website. It says that there will be 198 parties in 65 countries on 7 continents (yes, there is a toast planned in Antarctica) on 2 worlds.Short man...short life...
From my inspection of the party list, I am gathering that the second world (Earth being the first) is Second Life. The party is listed as being held on Space Destiny Island in SciLands Continent, Second Life.
- Yuri Gagarin was only five feet and two inches tall. His short height helped in his selection among 20 trained cosmonauts for that first cramped spaceflight.
- After reaching space, Gagarin was a hero worldwide. He received medals, toured all over, and was given responsibilities designing spacecraft and training cosmonauts. Soviet officials tried to keep him safe by keeping him on the ground, but he wanted to re-qualify as a fighter pilot. Gagarin and a flight instructor were tragically killed in a routine training flight.
- Gagarin was 27 when he made his spaceflight, and he was just 34 years old when he died.
While watching this YouTube video of Gagarin entering the spacecraft, taking off, and getting a hero's welcome back on Earth, try to remember that NOBODY HAD EVER DONE THIS BEFORE!
If you have enough time for a longer video (in English!), watch this. I learned for the first time that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left a medal of Yuri Gagarin at the moon, as a tribute to human's first cosmonaut.
Did you know...?
Yuri Gagarin had no control over his spacecraft while in flight.
As planned, Gagarin parachuted out of his spaceship once it was very close to the crashdown site. See a diagram about his re-entry at the World Almanac for Kids site.
Gagarin was inspired...
Yuri Gagarin was inspired to travel into space when he was just a kid—and then he got to accomplish his dream!
Find what inspires you. If you, too, are interested in exploration and adventure, check out Kids Astronomy.com!
(NOTE: Don't miss the games and puzzles found here.) Try something that is a personal first today. (You don't have to be the first human to do something to experience the excitement of a “first”!)
Listen to some space music...
Gagarin apparently listened to music while waiting in the cramped Vostok vessel for the countdown to begin, whistled a song as he flew over the Earth, and heard a song that was specially radioed to him as he flew over Russia, too.
Music can be a way of soothing the worried and entertaining the bored, but it can also teach us things and excite our emotions.
- Here is a cute spaceflight song for little kids.
- Here is the electromagnetic (radiation) information coming from a supernova translated into sounds.
- There is this actual genre of music called “space music,” which is very mellow electronic stuff. Here is a sample, accompanying the fabulous “Powers of Ten” video that takes us upward by powers of ten, from a couple picnicking in the park to our galaxy's patch of the universe—and then downward to an atom. Very interesting!