Launch of Vostok 1, the first manned spaceflight.
Launch of Vostok 1, the first manned spaceflight.
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First Human in Space

Vostok 1 (Russian: Восток-1, East 1 or Orient 1) was the first spaceflight in the Vostok program and the first human spaceflight in history. The Vostok 3KA spacecraft was launched on April 12, 1961. The flight took Yuri Gagarin, a cosmonaut from the Soviet Union, into space. The flight marked the first time that a human entered outer space, as well as the first orbital flight of a manned vehicle. Vostok 1 was launched by the Soviet space program, and was designed by Soviet engineers guided by Sergei Korolev under the supervision of Kerim Kerimov and others.

The spaceflight consisted of a single orbit of the Earth (to this date the shortest orbital manned spaceflight). According to official records, the spaceflight took 108 minutes from launch to landing. As planned, Gagarin landed separately from his spacecraft, having ejected with a parachute 7 km (23,000 ft) above ground. Due to the secrecy surrounding the Soviet space program at the time, many details of the spaceflight only came to light years later, and several details in the original press releases turned out to be false.

Officially, the U.S. congratulated the Soviet Union on its accomplishments.

Writing for the New York Times shortly after the flight, however, journalist Arthur Krock described mixed feelings in the United States due to fears of the spaceflight's potential military implications for the Cold War, and the Detroit Free Press wrote that "the people of Washington, London, Paris and all points between might have been dancing in the streets" if it were not for "doubts and suspicions" about Soviet intentions. Other US writers reported worries that the spaceflight had won a propaganda victory on behalf of Communism. President John F. Kennedy was quoted as saying that it would be "some time" before the US could match the Soviet launch vehicle technology, and that "the news will be worse before it's better." Kennedy also sent congratulations to the Soviet Union for their "outstanding technical achievement." Opinion pages of many US newspapers urged renewed efforts to overtake the Soviet scientific accomplishments.

Adlai Stevenson, then the US ambassador to the United Nations, was quoted as saying, "Now that the Soviet scientists have put a man into space and brought him back alive, I hope they will also help to bring the United Nations back alive," and on a more serious note urged international agreements covering the use of space (which did not occur until the Outer Space Treaty of 1967).