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Find here a video report from Orenburg Memorial Apartment of Yuri and Valentina Gagarin. Perhaps everyone knows the name of the first austronaut, but apparently not many people can separate facts from myths about the first human spaceflight. Watch the episode and put down the facts that you didn’t know. Also, prepare a short presentation about Yuri Gagarin based on this video and background information.

The first cosmonaut was born in 1934, in a small village 160km west of Moscow, in a family of a carpenter. Yuri Gagarin and his family survived the Nazi Germany occupation during World War II, however the Germans shipped his older siblings to slave labour camps and they did not return until 1945.

At 21, Yuri Gagarin signed up at the Pilots School in Orenberg, and in 1957, he graduated with top honors and took his first solo flight in a MiG-15 jet. That same year, he married his sweetheart, Valentina. After graduating, Gagarin was sent on some missions as a fighter pilot. However in 1959, Lieutenant Gagarin applied for admission to the astronaut training group. Out of 3461 applicants, just 20 were chosen as cosmonaut trainees in 1960. As Andrew Jenks argues in his monograph about Gagarin, despite the fact that Gagarin’s hight didn’t meet the physical guidlines (he was just 5 feet two inches rather than the prescribed 5 feet 6-7 inches) his name eventually rose to the top while German Titov became Gagarin’s backup on his historic flight and number 2 in space.

Doctors of various specializations, physiologists, and sports trainers prepared and examined the candidates. Later, Gagarin would be chosen to be the first man into space apprently because of his personality. Gagarin excelled at all the tests. His medical and phycological evaluations, written before his flight, noted that he had a knack for “reducing emotional tension,” calm reaction to anything unexpected, and a talent for making jokes. Among the candidates he was the fastest learner and the most flexible and adaptable to surrounding circumstances. It also helped that he was short in stature since Vostok 1's capsule was small.

Although he was fully trained for the mission, no one knew if it was going to be a success or a failure. On April 12, 1961 Gagarin was rocketed into space, using an automated system, but he was not a pilot. The main purpose of the one-orbit flight was to demonstrate that space conditions didn’t drive a person insane or otherwise harm him. He did not control the spacecraft during his mission because many scientists were worried about the psychological effects of being in space, however, in case of an emergency, Gagarin could have opened an envelope left on board for the override code. His mission was announced about 30 minutes before the landing.

After his successful first flight into space, Gagarin helped to train future cosmonauts. On March 27, 1968, Gagarin was test-piloting a MiG-15 fighter jet when the plane plummeted to the ground, killing Gagarin instantly. No one is quite sure exactly what went wrong during the deadly test flight. Official report on Gagarin's death still classified.

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