50 Years of Manned Space Flight
On this day in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth. His spacecraft, Vostok 1, had radio, television and life-support equipment to relay information on his condition. The flight was automated. Gagarin's controls were locked to prevent him from taking control of the ship, although a key in a sealed envelope was provided in case of an emergency. After re-entry, Gagarin ejected and made a planned descent with his own parachute. However for many years the Soviet Union denied this, because the flight would not have been recognized for various FAI world records unless the pilot had accompanied his craft to a landing. Gagarin died in a plane crash 7 years later.