Yuri Gagarin

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Yuri Gagarin : biography

9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968

Some sources have claimed that Gagarin commented during the flight, "I don’t see any God up here." However, no such words appear in the verbatim record of his conversations with Earth-based stations during the spaceflight. In a 2006 interview, Gagarin’s friend Colonel Valentin Petrov stated that the cosmonaut never said such words, and that the quote originated from Nikita Khrushchev’s speech at the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU about the state’s anti-religion campaign, saying "Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any god there." Petrov also said that Gagarin had been baptised into the Orthodox Church as a child, and a 2011 Foma magazine article quoted the rector of the Orthodox church in Star City saying, "Gagarin baptized his elder daughter Elena shortly before his space flight; and his family used to celebrate Christmas and Easter and keep icons in the house."

Legacy and tributes

Legacy

Aside from his short stature at , one of Gagarin’s most notable traits was his smile. Many commented on how Gagarin’s smile gained the attention of crowds on the frequent tours he did in the months after the Vostok 1 mission success.

Gagarin also garnered a reputation as an adept public figure. When he visited Manchester in the United Kingdom, it was pouring rain. However, Gagarin insisted that the car hood remain back so that the cheering crowds could catch a glimpse of him. Gagarin stated, "If all these people have turned out to welcome me and can stand in the rain, so can I." Gagarin refused an umbrella and remained standing in his open-top Bentley so that the cheering crowds could still see him.

Sergei Korolev, one of the masterminds behind the early years of the Soviet space program, later said that Gagarin possessed a smile "that lit up the Cold War".

Tributes

Gagarin was also honored by the American space program during Apollo 11 when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left a memorial satchel containing medals commemorating Gagarin and fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov on the surface of the Moon. On 1 August 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin left the Fallen Astronaut on the surface of the Moon as a memorial to all the American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts that died in the Space Race, with Yuri Gagarin listed among 14 others.

There were two commemorative coins issued in the Soviet Union to honour the 20th and 30th anniversaries of his flight: 1 ruble coin (1981, copper-nickel) and 3 ruble coin (1991, silver). In 2001, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight, a series of four coins bearing his likeness was issued in Russia: 2 ruble coin (copper-nickel), 3 ruble coin (silver), 10 ruble coin (brass-copper, nickel), and 100 ruble coin (silver). In 2011, Russia issued a 1,000 ruble coin (gold) and 3 ruble coin (silver) to mark the 50th anniversary of his flight.

Gagarin Raion in the Sevastopol city (Ukraine) was named after him during the Soviet Union.

In 2008, the Kontinental Hockey League named their championship trophy the Gagarin Cup.

In a 2010 Space Foundation survey, Gagarin was ranked as the #6 most popular space hero, tied with Star Trek’s fictional Capt. James T. Kirk.

In January 2011, Armenian airline Armavia named their first Sukhoi Superjet 100 in Gagarin’s honour.

On 14 July 2011, a copy of the Yuri Gagarin Statue from outside his former school in Lyubertsy was unveiled at the Admiralty Arch end of The Mall in London, opposite the permanent sculpture of James Cook.

50th anniversary

The 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s journey into space was marked in 2011 by tributes around the world. A film titled First Orbit was shot from the International Space Station, combining the original flight audio with footage of the route taken by Gagarin. The Russian, American, and Italian Expedition 27 crew aboard the ISS sent a special video message to wish the people of the world a "Happy Yuri’s Night", wearing shirts with an image of Gagarin.