How Gagarin Became First Man in Space Sixty Years Ago


April 12 will be the 60th anniversary of the day in 1961 when Russia's Yuri Gagarin became the first human to leave Earth. Gagarin blasted into space on top of a Vostok K rocket. Once in space, the rocket's cargo bay opened to release the orbital module. This module's final-stage rocket powered it into its planned height before it was jettisoned. After orbiting around Earth once, in 89 minutes, Gagarin used the capsule's control panel, a small window, and a large optical alignment device to position the capsule for re-entry. He then used the service module's retro rocket to slow the capsule's descent before trying to detach his re-entry capsule from the service module, but disaster struck when the bands holding the capsule failed to detach. The capsule began to shake violently, but Gagarin was able to activate his ejection seat at a height of 7 kilometers. His seat separated successfully at a height of 4 kilometers and Gagarin parachuted down to touch Earth only 108 minutes after launching.


  1. Vostok rocket launches, zoom into top part, see-through view of Gagarin shaking inside
  2. Rocket in space, covers blow off, reveal capsule, see-through zoom to Gagarin inside
  3. Rocket falls away as capsule and module continue deeper into space
  4. Capsule's retro rocket fires to slow down, re-entry, one strap does not release
  5. Capsule sphere re-enters atmosphere, ejection pod ejects
  6. Capsule and Gagarin's parachutes both open, they float down separately to Earth



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