Yuri was subjected to extremely rigorous training: physical, mental, and psychological. He underwent long periods in a sensory deprivation chamber, experiments with weightlessness, endurance in heat chambers, and test flights under stress with every reaction monitored. One test was to solve difficult mathematical equations while a loudspeaker blasted out answers. He was calm, resolute and always had a sense of humor and he always finished at the top. His fellow cosmonauts described him as: "fit comrade, never loses heart, a man of principles, bold and steadfast, modest and simple, decisive, a leader."

Yuri wired up
What amazed the doctors most was that, no matter how hard the test, Yuri always maintained a cheerful sense of humor.

On a treadmill
He displayed great physical strength that outshined his fellow trainees.


The doctors would say to him, "The stratosphere is not the limit for you!"


Once when the trainees were awaiting an instructor, Yuri jumped up to the blackboard and gave a comphensive lecture on the Kepler curve.

A fun-loving man, Gagarin coupled his strenuous training with periods of relaxation, and, like his work, gave 100%. He loved the outdoors and enjoyed swimming, fishing, camping, hunting, and the company of good friends. And of course he loved cars.

with sports car
Like any good pilot, Yuri enjoyed a well-engineered, fast car.


Reading paper with friends
Even after he bacame famous, he always had time for his friends.

Yuri hugged by daughter
Papa enjoys a tender moment.

He was devoted to his family, and they were never far from his mind. He mentioned during one test flight while experimenting with a golden sphere, "Here I am, a grown man and a prospective cosmonaut, playing with a golden ball and holding a little flask of water to drink from. If only my little girl could see her daddy with these toys." It was during this very flight that he first witnessed water weightlessness. He described catching the spherical drops of water "in his hand, like butterflies."


When word came that Yuri was the cosmonaut chosen to attempt the dangerous voyage into outer space, he and Valya talked all night. With trembling lips she asked him, "Why you?" By morning she would say, "If you are sure of yourself go. Everything will be all right."

Valya & Yuri dancing
From their earliest times together, Yuri and Valya shared all their thoughts.

Gagarin & daughters
He always had time for the girls.

His second daughter Galochka, "breath of spring," was born in early 1961. On the last day at home before his historic flight, while Valya was shopping for last minute things, he told of changing Galochka's diapers and jokingly telling her, "What a thoughtless child! Her daddy is about to go up in space, and she dirties her diaper!"
Photos: The Russian State Archive of Scientific & Technical Documents.