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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 03/98: Gagarin  
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Wednesday, 1 April, 1998, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
Gagarin - son of a peasant, star of space.
Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin - the world's first cosmonaut
On April 12 1961, the world changed.

Lieutenant Yuri A. Gagarin became the first human being to leave the Earth's atmosphere. He won the race to put a man into space for the USSR, and in doing so he irrevocably changed the course of his own life.

He orbited the planet in spacecraft Vostok 1, and returned to Earth one hour and 49 minutes after launch, landing safely.

The flight proved that man could endure the rigours of lift-off, re-entry, and weightlessness.

Gagarin
Gagarin was chosen from thousands of hopefuls
But Gagarin, the First Cosmonaut, was also a symbol of the Soviet struggle for progress from the agricultural society to the space age - the triumph of the will over the plough.

Gazing at the Earth from an altitude of 300 kilometres, Gagarin described the world as unique and beautiful.

"The earth is blue, " he reported to Ground Control. "How wonderful. It is amazing."

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