The world as Yuri Gagarin saw it

Illustration for article titled The world as Yuri Gagarin saw it

Fifty years ago today, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to enter outer space. In doing so, he didn't just take humanity into a bold new era of exploration - he also got to see our planet in a way no one else ever had before.

There aren't any photos of the Earth from Gagarin's Vostok 1 mission, so this photo taken on the International Space Station back in 2003 will have to serve as a proxy. For his part, Gagarin offered this simple description of what he saw high above our world: "The sky is very dark; the Earth is bluish. Everything is seen very clearly."

Gagarin's spaceflight took him 200 miles up, and he completed one orbit before coming back to Earth. Gagarin's historic mission on April 12, 1961 would be his only trip into space, in part because of his tragic death in a plane crash in 1968.



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Technically, the Soviets cheated. The FAI required that, in order for the mission to count as a flight, the pilot had to land with the spacecraft. The Vostok landing system wasn't perfected, so Gagarin ejected from the capsule and parachuted separately and Moscow compelled the eyewitnesses to claim that Gagarin only emerged from the capsule following touchdown.