Yuri Gagarin (1934 - 1968) The first man in outer space.
Gagarin was born in Soviet Russia. After graduating he trained to work in a foundry and, aged 17, volunteered to train as an air cadet. In 1955 he was drafted by the Soviet army and sent to Air Force Pilots' school where he learned to fly MiG jets.
In 1960 he made the final shortlist of 6 pilots picked to become cosmonauts. In addition to being very adept, Gagarin was also only 5'2" tall - handy when space inside the capsule was very limited.
On 12 April 1961, the Vostok 1 spacecraft with Gagarin aboard was launched and completed one orbit of Earth, making Gagarin the first man in space and effectively winning the space race against the USA.
On his return, Gagarin became a national hero and a global celebrity. He visited the UK in July 1961 and this statue of him was temporarily sited outside the offices of the British Council, just off the Mall. This was the place where he was welcomed to the UK by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
Gagarin never went back into spacebut he continued to fly as a fighter pilot and on a routine flight in 1968, he was killed when his MiG-15UTI crashed. He is buried at red Square, in the wall of the Kremlin.
The anniversary of his spaceflight April 12 was declared the International Day of Human Space Flight by the United Nations.
This statue of Gagarin is a copy of one commissioned in 1984 from Anatoly Novikov by the school where Gagarin trained as a foundryman. This version was a gift from the Russian space agency Roscosmos to the British Council. It was unveiled by Gagarin's daughter Elena Gagarina on 13th July 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of his trip to London.
Location - its permanent home is on Gagarin Terrace at the rear of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich overlooking Greenwich Park and Blackheath. The Avenue, Greenwich, London SE10 8XJ
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