Yuri Gagarin: Cosmonaut

On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin spent 108 minutes in orbit aboard Vostok I, thereby becoming the first human being in history to travel into space. Gagarin was later asked how he had been able to sleep the night before the big event. "Would it be right to take off if I were not rested?" he replied. "It was my duty to sleep, so I slept."

[It is remarkable that he slept at all. Given the unreliable nature of the equipment and the uncertain physiological effects of space travel (particularly on the human brain), Gagarin was not allowed to control Vostok I himself. His onboard provisions reflected additional uncertainties: a ten day food supply (for the 108 minute flight), and a pistol and knife -- in case Gagarin landed in an inhospitable place and was forced to fight off wild animals.]

[What historic Russian word did Gagarin utter to begin his journey? "Poyekhali!" (Let's go!)]

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