A little over 100 years ago, humans were beginning to design objects that could fly a few meters. After many unsuccessful attempts, a machine had been lifted off the ground to fly autonomously.
From there the technological advances in that area were almost uncontrollable and reached unimaginable points during the next few decades.
After the Second World War, the two superpowers of the world had been confronted in what became known as the Cold War. A series of proxy wars in which the United States and the Soviet Union faced each other indirectly and above all an impressive space race was the most important characteristic of that period.
The space race forced these two countries not only to advance in space research and exploration but to create revolutionary technology that would grant them a military advantage over the other. The main focus was, in simple words, to accomplish anything first than their rivals.
The Soviet Union had launched the first satellite into space in October 1957, puzzling the United States, which then made the decision to try to put the first man in space, so it started the Mercury Program in which 7 test pilots were selected. Everything was going according to plan, but only two weeks before Alan Shepard’s scheduled launch, the Soviets again surprised the world.
On April 12, 1961, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Vostok 1 capsule was launched into space and in it was Yuri Gagarin, a pilot of the Soviet air force who would become the first man to leave the planet and orbit Earth.
Since takeoff, several parts of the ship were detached according to plan to raise Gagarin to a suborbital level and there the last pieces were detached, leaving the spaceship with a single engine that would propel it to outer orbit where it would make a trip around the world. His trip would last almost two hours until he began his re-entry and landed safely minutes later in a desert in Kazakhstan.
This incredible milestone marked not only the course of the space race and the military competition between the Soviet Union and the United States, but it confirmed that humans could survive in space and that communications could continue almost without problems with the control towers on Earth.
It is thanks to this impressive event that years later humans reached the Moon and today missions to other planets are being planned. Gagarin was the forerunner of a breakthrough in human history, and we celebrate 60 years of his great achievement.