Collection Item Summary:
This is a bronze bust of the first man to orbit the Earth, Yuri Gagarin. Born in a small village, west of Moscow just before World War II, Yuri Gagarin was a young Soviet Air Force pilot in 1959 when a special commission interviewed him to find out if he might be qualified to fly a "new type of aircraft." In a little over a year, on April 12, 1961, this young man climbed into a spherical capsule on top of a rocket derived from the German V-2 rockets. The rocket launched him into a single orbit of the Earth. With that flight, Gagarin fulfilled the centuries-old dreams of human spaceflight and became an international hero.
Russian artist, Aleksei Dmitrievich Leonov (no relationship to the cosmonaut) created this bust. There are several other castings of it throughout the world.
The Russian Embassy in Washington DC and the International Charitable Fund “Dialogue of Cultures – United World” donated this one to the Air and Space Museum in 2016, on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of Gagarin's flight.