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 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?