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Unknown Russian Photographer
Juri Alexejewitsch Gagarin before his departure into outer space
From an album with 26 photographs
Sovjet Union, Tjura Tam (Kazakhstan), April 12th, 1961
Gelatin silver print, mounted on green cardboard, 16 x 10,5 cm

With his legendary „Pojechali!” (We’re off!) the Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space and people back on earth held their breath. The Russians had succeeded and, for the present, had won the technological race between East and West. But by 1969 it was an American who set foot on the moon.

The photograph shows the young spaceman Gagarin during the process of getting dressed for his first flight into outer space. The photographer captured what was a rather intimate moment – the cosmonaut in a pensive attitude without his characteristic protective spacesuit. In the run-up to the greatest adventure that a person had ever taken part in Gagarin like to show himself in public as intrepid and optimistic. Now he appears to think he is unobserved and this allows one to see the uncertainty of the impending journey written clearly all over his face.

Yuri Gagarin was born on the 9th of March 1934 in Smolensk and after being trained as a foundry technician, he underwent training as a pilot in the cadet training school of the Soviet air force in Orenburg until 1957. He was selected for the first Soviet team of cosmonauts and began training in March 1960. Because of his special ability to withstand physical and mental stress Gagarin was assigned to take part in the first manned spaceflight. On the 12th of April 1961 the 27year-old Yuri Gagarin took off as the first person in space. He orbited the earth once on board the Vostok 1 taking 108 minutes. The elliptical flight path took him up to 237 kilometres away from the surface of the earth.

After his return he was declared a Hero of the Soviet Union and awarded the Order of Lenin. Thereafter Yuri Gagarin was a substitute pilot on the Soyuz 1 mission in April 1967 but he never returned to space. Yuri Gagarin died in an aeroplane crash on the 27th of March 1968 while undertaking a training flight with group captain Vladimir Seregin. Both men died in the crashed machine without having activated the ejection seat.

Ulla Fischer-Westhauser, © WestLicht