50 Years After Yuri Gagarian’s Momentous Flight
It's been 50 years since Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarian became the first man in space. April 12, 1961 was a big day in the history of the Soviet Union. America landed the first man on the moon, but the Soviet's put the first human in space.
The 27-year-old cosmonaut's mission lasted just 108 minutes and was fraught with drama: a break in data transmission, glitches involving antennas, a retrorocket and the separation of modules. And there was an overarching question that science had yet to answer: What would weightlessness do to a human being?
"There were all kinds of wild fears that a man could lose his mind in zero gravity, lose his ability to make rational decisions," recalls Oleg Ivanovsky, who oversaw the construction and launch of the Vostok spacecraft that carried Gagarin.
History says it was all about being first. Gagarin's 108 minute flight spurred America on. but after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969, the space race fizzled. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 , the Challenger explosion and budget woes, the desire to 'go where no man has gone before' doesn't seem that important to the American public anymore.