Yuri Gagarin: 8 things you (probably) didn’t know about the first man in space

On 12 April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into space. Here, we reveal eight surprising facts about him...

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. (Photo by Getty Images)

1) When he set off for space, Gagarin was dressed in a bright orange spacesuit and a helmet inscribed with ‘CCCP’ painted in red. The painted letters were a last minute addition, marking Gagarin as a Soviet citizen so that he would be recognised after parachuting to safety following ejection from the spacecraft

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2) Gagarin took off with the words ‘Poyehali!’ (Let’s go!)

3) The astronaut was just 27 years old when he set off on his legendary flight

4) Gagarin’s rocket was an adapted missile, called R-7 or ‘Semyorka’. The rocket carried his ‘Vostok’ spacecraft, which translates as ‘east’ in Russian

5) It is said that Gagarin made a good impression on chief designer Korolev when he followed the Russian custom for entering a home and took off his shoes before getting into the newly designed Vostok spacecraft

6) Since 12 April 1961, the anniversary of Gagarin’s first flight has been celebrated in Russia as a holiday known as Cosmonautics Day

7) Yuri Gagarin was also back-up commander for the ill-fated Soyuz 1 mission, which crashed on 24 April 1967. He died in a training flight the following year

8) Gagarin trained as a steel worker and was invited to visit England in July 1961, just months after his historic mission, by Britain’s Amalgamated Union of Foundry Workers

You can find more historical space travel facts here.

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This article was first published by History Extra in 2014