Yuri's Night Special Edition
6 April 2013
Special Edition: Ten things about Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, and his cosmic legacy:
1. YURI'S NIGHT
Gagarin's space flight on April 12, 1961, was transformed from a Cold War victory into an international celebration -- a global celebration of humanity's past, present, and future in space. The "world space party" has been going strong since 2001.
2. YURI'S FLIGHT
Gagarin orbited the Earth once, reaching an altitude of 322 km (200 miles) during the 108-minute flight in a spherical capsule named Vostok 1. He reached a top speed of about 27,400 km per hour (17.030 mph). He launched as a lieutenant and landed as a major.
3. REMEMBERING LAIKA
Gagarin was not the first earthling to travel in space. Laika the dog was the first earthling to travel into space aboard the Soviet Sputnik 2 in 1957. Ham, a chimpanzee, was second with a suborbital flight in January 1961. Ham survived his journey; Laika did not.
4. ORBITAL ACCOMPLISHMENT
Gagarin's flight was even more remarkable because he was able to orbit the Earth in addition to reaching space. The first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, made a 15-minute suborbital flight. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962.
5. PUSHING THE ENVELOPE
Gagarin's Vostok capsule had no safe landing system. The Soviet Air Force pilot ejected from the capsule at 20,000 feet and parachuted to Earth.
6. HANDS ACROSS THE WATER
Despite Cold War tensions, Gagarin met American astronauts Edward White and James McDivitt, the crew of Gemini 4, at the Paris Air Show in 1965.
7. EARLY LOSS
Gagarin did not live to see his legacy grow. He was killed in 1968 in a MiG fighter jet crash. He received a hero's funeral and is buried in the Kremlin wall in Moscow. He was 34.
8. SHARED ANNIVERSARY
Twenty years after Gagarin's historic flight, NASA's Space Shuttle was launched for the first time. The two-man crew of STS-1 spent two days and six hours in space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.
9. ANOTHER FIRST
Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space during the flight of Vostok 6 in 1963. She spent three days orbiting the Earth.
10. DARK SKIES
This week also is Dark Skies Week, an international celebration of skywatching. You can celebrate and honor Gagarin's legacy by catching the space station as it flies across the night sky.
Read More by Autumn Burdick