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Yuri Gagarin's historic space flight (photos)

On April 12, 1961, an unknown Soviet flight major became the first man into space. The rest is history.

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Daniel Terdiman

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1 of 10 European Space Agency

Gagarin in helmet

On April 12, 1961, an almost unknown 27-year-old became the most famous man on the planet. Yuri Gagarin, in an 108-minute orbital flight aboard the Vostok 1, became the first human into space. Today is the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's flight, and though the Soviets were very quickly outclassed in the space race, that accomplishment a half-century ago is one that will live forever in the minds of most space enthusiasts.
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2 of 10 NASA

Lift-off

Riding a converted ICBM, Gagarin lifted off in the cockpit of the Vostok 1. His flight lasted just 108 minutes, and it was only a month before the Americans' first manned space mission, but on April 12, 1961, no one was riding higher than Gagarin and the entire Soviet space program.
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3 of 10 NASA

Man Enters Space

This reprint of "The Huntsville Times" heralds Gagarin's accomplishment.
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4 of 10 RKK Energiya museum

Vostok

The Vostok 1 capsule, which is said to have been difficult to get to separate from the final stage of its rocket, nearly causing catastrophe.
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5 of 10 Yuri's Night

Yuri's Night

Each year, Gagarin is remembered with a series of special events held at locations the world over known as Yuri's Night.
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6 of 10 NASA

Gagarin with the Gemini astronauts

In this photo from 1965, Gagarin is greeted warmly by members of the American Gemini 4 program at the Paris International Air Show.
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7 of 10 NASA

Gagarin in color

Here, we see Gagarin in his spacesuit.
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8 of 10 NASA

Vostok control panel

This is the control panel of the Vostok 1.
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9 of 10 NASA

Gagarin Plaque

According to NASA, "Dr. George M. Low, acting administrator of NASA, presented to the USSR on January 21, 1971, a plaque in memory of Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who made the first flight into space on April 12, 1961. Accepting the plaque at the Moscow ceremony was Soviet Gen. Kuznetsov, commander of the USSR's Star City space base, where cosmonauts have been training since 1960."
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10 of 10 European Space Agency

Sergei Korolev

Although Gagarin gets all the ink, much of the praise for the Soviet Union getting a man into space first should go to Sergei Korolev, the father of that country's space program.

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