In 1960, the Soviet space program opened a selection process where some 3500 volunteers were presented, all fighter pilots. The last twenty received initial training and then a group of six men was chosen. Finally Gagarin is elected as the first cosmonaut, and subjected to a series of experiments and tests to determine his physical and psychological resistance during flight.
Gagarin competed in this selection with German Titov and Grigori Nelyubov . He was chosen for his exceptional physical characteristics. Gagarin measured 1.57 m (5 ft. 2 in.) meters, an advantage in the small cabin of the Vostok ship. Titov was dressed in in the cosmonaut suit on the first flight into space as a reserve in case Yuri couldn’t fly, until the rocket took off. Three months later, Titov became the second Russian pilot to fly in space, and the third human, after American Alan Shepard.
On Wednesday 12 April 1961, Gagarin became the first human to travel into space in the Vostok 3KA -3 spacecraft better known as Vostok 1 . His code name during flight was Kedr (Russian кедр , cedar ) ,Siberian pine, and ground operators were Zarya ( Заря , Aurora) and Vesna ( Весна spring ) .
It is known that the flight lasted 108 minutes: 9 minutes to enter low orbit and to go around the earth. Meanwhile, all he had to do was talk on the radio, try some food, becoming the first man to eat on board of a spaceship, in order to know if a human being could feel and behave normally being weightless.
Scientists didn’t know with certainty the effects of weightlessness, and the ship was always under ground control. In case of emergency having all the required flight instruments for manual landing. Gagarin was strapped to an ejection seat, from where he would jump from an altitude of about 7 kilometers.
The flight of Vostok 1 began at 06:07 Universal Time ( UT) , powered by a rocket Vostok- K series from the Baikonur Cosmodrome . Ground controllers did not know whether Gagarin had reached a stable orbit until 25 minutes after launch, just as he was heading toward the unlit side of the Earth and leaving behind the Soviet Union through the Pacific Ocean. Crossing the Strait of Magellan in the morning and the vast South Atlantic Ocean during sunrise. Then the ships automatic alignment system activated and the capsule started its reverse rockets and started id decline, while crossing the west coast of Angola , about 8000 kilometers from the landing point .
Gagarin died on March 27, 1968 when the fighter plane he was piloting during a routine flight crashed near Moscow.