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Yuri Gagarin

6 Surprising Facts About Yuri Gagarin's First Spaceflight

Fifty years ago on April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space, ushering in the era of human spaceflight. The rocket carrying Gagarin's Vostok 1 spacecraft blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:07 a.m. local time at the Soviet Union launch site. [ Photos: Yuri Gagarin, First Man in Space ]Reaching unprecedented speeds for human travel at the time, the spacecraft broke free of the Earth's gravitational pull and entered orbit around the planet, circling once before re-entering the atmosphere and landing back on Soviet soil.Here are six facts about Gagarin's historic mission: How long was Gagarin up there?The total mission lasted just 108 minutes, and the trip once around the Earth at 17,500 mph (most of the way) took less than an hour and a half. [ Video: The First Human Spaceflight ]In that time, Vostok 1 completed one not-quite-circular orbit, at a maximum altitude of 203 miles, before slowing down to the point that the capsule was pulled back in...

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