On this day in 1961 cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin blasted off into the history books. He became the first human to leave the earth’s atmosphere and enter space. His words at liftoff were a phrase that is remembered for the beginning of the era of human space travel. “Поехали!” pronounced “Poyekhali.” Translated, “Let's go!” His orbit around earth lasted 1 hour and 29 minutes. When he fell back to earth Gagarin became a national hero in Russia and known around the world. He toured the planet visiting different nations to promote the Russian space program. He died in a jet crash during a training mission on March 27, 1968. The cosmonaut was honored by the American space program when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left a tribute to Gagarin on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Pictured above is a Gagarin poster that I purchased in Moscow in 2003. Pictured below are Russian commemorative stamps that I purchased from cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov when he visited the University of Alabama in 2002.
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org