Chief Designer Korolev, the head of the Soviet space program and the man who had chosen the first cosmonaut, was especially fond of Yuri:

"During the days of preparation for the launch, when everyone had more than his share of concerns, apprehensions, and anxieties, he alone seemed to keep calm. More than that: he was full of good spirits and beamed like the sun."


Korolev & cosmonauts
Chief designer Korolev takes a break with his "young eagles."
Gagarin in spacesuit
Korolev's favorite, his calmness
seemed to put others at ease.

Korolev would also comment later, "A good pilot is one who, in one minute of flight, can make enough observations, and draw enough conclusions, to keep an entire institute busy with them for a whole year. A bad pilot can fly for a whole week but only obtain enough information for an hour's work. What pleased us so much about Gagarin was that in 108 minutes he was able to see a great deal and enrich science with valuable information and conclusions."

Read excepts from Yuri Gagarin's statement before his flight.


Following his return to earth, Yuri's triumphant walk through Red Square in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands made him more nervous and afraid than his historic flight. As he reached the podium, the awaiting Valya tearfully whispered in his ear, "Our dream has come true, Yuri." Embracing her he replied, "You're a smart girl! Thank you!"


waving to crowd
Waving to the crowd after returning to earth.
He embarked on a world tour with Valya as an ambassador of good will. And everywhere they traveled, Yuri was decorated with the highest honors. He became a deputy of the Supreme Soviet, always continued to help and advise his fellow cosmonauts, and was appointed Commander of the Cosmonauts' Detachment.

Gagarin meets Nehru
On a goodwill trip, Yuri met
another nation's hero
Indian Prime Minister
Jawaharlal Nehru.



Gagarin & Tereshkova
Yuri and the first woman
in space, Valentina
Tereshkova, attend
a meeting.

Photos: The Russian State Archive of Scientific & Technical Documents.