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Q. Who were the first man and woman in space? — Jose L.
A. Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova of Russia were first.
Colonel Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin flew to space on April 12, 1961, in a spacecraft named Vostok 1 launched from the Soviet Union's Baikonur Cosmodrome.
The Russian cosmonaut made one orbit the Earth at 17,026 miles per hour at an altitude of 188 miles. His revolution lasted 1 hour 48 minutes.
The capsule re-entered Earth's atmosphere, then Gagarin ejected to descend on a parachute to land southwest of Engels Smelovka in Saratov. For a long time, the USSR denied that he had parachuted to the final landing because Gagarin's flight might not have been recognized as a world record since the pilot had not accompanied his vehicle to its landing.
The cosmonaut was born in 1934 in the village of Klushino, Smolensk, 100 miles west of Moscow. Gagarin died in 1968 when a MIG-15 aircraft he was testing crashed near Moscow. His ashes were buried in the Kremlin Wall with other Soviet heroes. A crater on the far side of the Moon was named for him.
Colonel-Engineer Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova flew to space in the Vostok 6 capsule in 1963. She stayed three days. On her first orbit, the USSR cosmonaut maneuvered Vostok 6 within about three miles of Vostok 5, which had been launched two days earlier.
Born in 1937 in Maslennikovo, Yaroslavl, USSR, Tereshkova also was the first ordinary person in space. She was a textile mill worker who enjoyed the hobby of parachute jumping when she was picked for a class of women to train for spaceflight. USSR Premier Nikita Khrushchev wanted a spectacular, so, by age 25, Tereshkova was a cosmonaut. She spent 71 hours orbiting Earth 48 times in June 1963 in her capsule Sea Gull.
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