The Fiftieth Anniversary of Gagarin’s Space Flight

So, fifty years ago today, the United States collectively freaked out because Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin made the first human venture into space. A mere seven years later, the poor man died in a plane crash at the age of 34. There seems to be controversy surrounding his death, as some believe it was a conspiracy. (And considering that this was the Soviet Union, one can never be sure…)

Some biographical information about Gagarin: he was born in the village of Klushino (Клушино) in Smolenskaya Oblast on March 9, 1934. His parents worked on a collective farm. As a child, he was interested in space and joined the Soviet Air Force.

He was selected for the Vostok program in 1960 and began training for a flight into space. A year later, in 1961, he became the first human to travel into space and orbit the earth.

The BBC has some very interesting articles in honor of the anniversary. There’s this one, about what might have happened if the Soviets had landed on the moon first, and this interview with Gagarin.

The whole Space Race was a fascinating aspect of the Cold War that I actually don’t know much about (I’ve mostly focused my studies on the Stalin era, especially the politics and infighting that took place). Anyone want to recommend a good book on the Space Race to me?