Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet Air Forces pilot and cosmonaut who became the first human to journey into outer space, achieving a major milestone in the Space Race; his capsule, Vostok 1, completed one orbit of Earth on 12 April 1961. Gagarin became an international celebrity and was awarded many medals and titles, including Hero of the Soviet Union, his nation's highest honour.
Born in the village of Klushino near Gzhatsk, in his youth Gagarin was a foundryman at a steel plant in Lyubertsy. He later joined the Soviet Air Forces as a pilot and was stationed at the Luostari Air Base, near the Norwegian border, before his selection for the Soviet space programme with five other cosmonauts. Following his spaceflight, Gagarin became deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Centre, which was later named after him. He was also elected as a deputy of the Soviet of the Union in 1962 and then to the Soviet of Nationalities, respectively the lower and upper chambers of the Supreme Soviet.
Vostok 1 was Gagarin's only spaceflight but he served as the backup crew to the Soyuz 1 mission, which ended in a fatal crash, killing his friend and fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov.