On 12 April 1961 Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space when he orbited the Earth once during a 108 minute flight.
In 1960 Gagarin, a fighter pilot, was shortlisted for the Vostok 1 programme, which built on the success of Sputnik 1 just three years earlier. German Titov was Gagarin's closest rival for selection - both men tried to impress space programme director Sergei Korolev.
Gagarin became an instant worldwide celebrity and visited several countries including Britain in 1961. However, he was never to emulate his success and died in a military training flight on 27 March 1968, aged 34.
Image: Yuri Gagarin before launch (credit: Ria Novosti/SPL)
A Soviet fighter pilot becomes the first man in space.
Yuri Gagarin's epic achievement stunned the world.
Yuri Gagarin's journey into space on 12 April 1961 stunned the world. Among those recognising the scale of the achievement was Sir Bernard Lovell, first director of Jodrell Bank Observatory.
Yuri Gagarin encounters trouble on his return flight.
Yuri Gagarin encounters trouble on his return flight. Ejecting earlier than planned, he and his capsule landed in fields near a Russian village.
The BBC Home Service reports on Yuri Gagarin's flight (audio only).
The BBC Home Service reports on Yuri Gagarin's flight into space. The contributors in this clip include Sir Bernard Lovell, first director of Jodrell Bank Observatory. (Image credit: Ria Novosti/Science Photo Library)
Yuri Gagarin and German Titov battle for selection.
Yuri Gagarin and German Titov battle for selection for the Vostok 1 programme. They had to impress Sergei Korolev, chief rocket engineer and mastermind of the Soviet space programme. Here Titov recalls the tough physical and mental tests that they faced. This clip features training footage.
Gagarin answers questions at Earls Court in London during a live 1961 broadcast.
Major Yuri Gagarin answers questions put to him by Richard Dimbleby, Tom Margerison, science editor of the Sunday Times, and Yuri Fokin of the Soviet Television Service during a live broadcast from the Russian exhibition at Earls Court in 1961. His answers are interpreted by Boris Belitsky of Moscow Radio.
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (Russian: Ю́рий Алексе́евич Гага́рин[note 1]; IPA: [ˈjʉrʲɪj ɐlʲɪˈksʲejɪvʲɪtɕ ɡɐˈɡarʲɪn]; 9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968) was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961.
Gagarin became an international celebrity, and was awarded many medals and titles, including Hero of the Soviet Union, the nation's highest honour. Vostok 1 marked his only spaceflight, but he served as backup crew to the Soyuz 1 mission (which ended in a fatal crash). Gagarin later became deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow, which was later named after him. Gagarin died in 1968 when the MiG 15 training jet he was piloting crashed.