Yuri Gagarin


Yuri Gagarin : biography

9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968

Swiss-based German watchmaker Bernhard Lederer created a limited edition of 50 Gagarin Tourbillons to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight.

The launch of Soyuz TMA-21 on 4 April 2011 was devoted to the 50th anniversary of the first manned space mission.

Honours and awards

  • Jubilee Medal "40 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR" (USSR, 1958)
  • Hero of the Soviet Union (14 April 1961)
  • Order of Lenin (USSR, 14 April 1961)
  • Hero of Socialist Labour (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, 29 April 1961)
  • Hero of Socialist Labour, (People’s Republic of Bulgaria, 24 May 1961)
  • Order of Georgi Dimitrov (Bulgaria, 24 May 1961)
  • Order of the Star, 2nd Class (Indonesia, 10 June 1961)
  • Cross of Grunwald, 1st class (Poland, 20 June 1961)
  • Pilot-Cosmonaut of the USSR (27 June 1961)
  • The first Commander of the Order "Playa Giron" (Cuba, 18 July 1961)
  • "For achievements in aeronautics" (Brazil, 2 August 1961)
  • Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil, 3 August 1961)
  • Order of the Flag of the Hungarian Republic, 1st class with diamonds (Hungary, 21 August 1961)
  • Honored Master of Sports of the USSR (1961, title obtained as a reward for a space flight)
  • Military Pilot 1st Class (1961, awarded the qualification of space flight)
  • Gold Medal of the British Society for interplanetary travel, 1961
  • Honorary suvorovets (Moscow Suvorov Military School, 1962)
  • Order of the Nile (Egypt, 31 January 1962)
  • Order of the African Star (Liberia, 6 February 1962)
  • Hero of Labour, (Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 28 April 1962)
  • Gold Medal of the Austrian Government, 1962
  • President of the Soviet-Cuban friendship
  • Honorary Member of the Society, "the Finland-Soviet Union"
  • Order of Karl Marx (German Democratic Republic, 22 October 1963)
  • Jubilee Medal "Twenty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945" (USSR, 9 May 1965)
  • Medal "For Impeccable Service", 3rd class (Soviet Union, March 1966)
  • Honorary member of the International Academy of Astronautics (1966)
  • Order of Klement Gottwald (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic)
  • Jubilee Medal "50 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR" (USSR, January 1968)
  • Konstantin Tsiolkovsky Gold Medal "for outstanding work in the field of interplanetary communications" (USSR)
  • Medal of de Lavaux (FAI)
  • Gold medal and diploma "Man in Space", the Italian Association of Space
  • Gold Medal "For outstanding difference" and the Royal Aero Club Diploma, Sweden
  • Medal of Columbus (Italy)
  • Gold Medal of Saint-Denis (France)
  • Gold Medal Award "for courage" of the Fund Matstsotti (Italy), 2007

and others.

Yuri Gagarin was elected an honorary citizen of the cities of Kaluga, Novozybkov, Novocherkassk, Lyubertsy, Sumqayit, Smolensk, Vinnytsia and Sevastopol, Saratov, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Tyumen (the USSR), Orenburg (Russia), Sofia, Pernik, Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Athens (Greece), Famagusta, Limassol (Cyprus), Saint-Denis (France), and Teplice (Czech Republic). He was also awarded the golden keys to the gates of the city of Cairo and Alexandria (Egypt).

After Vostok 1

After the flight, Gagarin became a worldwide celebrity, touring widely abroad. He visited Italy, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Egypt and Finland to promote the Soviet Union’s accomplishment of putting the first human in space. He visited the United Kingdom three months after the Vostok 1 mission, going to London and Manchester.

The sudden rise to fame took its toll on Gagarin. While acquaintances say Gagarin had been a "sensible drinker", his touring schedule placed him in social situations where he was always expected to drink. Gagarin was also reportedly caught by his wife in a room with another woman, a nurse named Anna who had aided him after a boating incident earlier in the day, at a Black Sea resort in September 1961. He attempted to escape by leaving through a window and jumping off her second floor balcony, hitting his face on a kerbstone and leaving a permanent scar above his left eyebrow.

In 1962, he began serving as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and was elected to the Central Committee of the Young Communist League. He later returned to Star City, the cosmonaut facility, where he spent seven years working on designs for a reusable spacecraft. He became a Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet Air Forces on 12 June 1962, and received the rank of Colonel on 6 November 1963. Soviet officials tried to keep him away from any flights, being worried of losing their hero in an accident. Gagarin was backup pilot for his friend Vladimir Komarov in the Soyuz 1 flight, which was launched despite Gagarin’s protests that additional safety precautions were necessary. When Komarov’s flight ended in a fatal crash, Gagarin was permanently banned from training for and participating in further spaceflights.

Gagarin had become deputy training director of the Star City cosmonaut training base. At the same time, he began to re-qualify as a fighter pilot.

Career in the Soviet Air Force

After graduating from the technical school in 1955, the Soviet Army drafted Gagarin. On a recommendation, Gagarin was sent to the First Chkalov Air Force Pilot’s School in Orenburg, and soloed in a MiG-15 in 1957. While there he met Valentina Ivanovna Goryacheva, a medical technician graduate of the Orenburg Medical School. They were married on 7 November 1957, the same day Gagarin graduated from Orenburg.

Post-graduation, he was assigned to the Luostari airbase in Murmansk Oblast, close to the Norwegian border, where terrible weather made flying risky. He became a Lieutenant in the Soviet Air Forces on 5 November 1957; on 6 November 1959 he received the rank of Senior Lieutenant.