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Racing to the Moon

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The Soviets stunned the world again by sending the first person into space. On April 12, 1961, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin circled the Earth once in his Vostok spacecraft and returned safely. Gagarin's flight took place a month before American astronaut Alan Shepard's suborbital flight, and 10 months before astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Once more, Gagarin's flight suggested that the U.S.S.R. was well ahead in the Space Race.


Gagarin used these two ID cards. One identifies him as a cosmonaut in training (right) and the other as a member of the Communist party. He kept the cosmonaut card in his pocket during his historic flight.

Lent by the Museum of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center, Star City, Russia

Gagarin's Communist party i.d. card Gagarin's cosmonaut training i.d. card
99 k jpeg
SI#: 97-17211
158 k jpeg
SI#: 97-17211

Gagarin delivered a speech to the Soviet State Commission on Space Flight two days before his historic flight. In it, he thanked his colleagues "for trusting me to be the first to fly into space," adding that "I am glad, proud, happy--as any Soviet man would be." Gagarin also assured his audience that "I do not doubt the successful outcome of the flight."

This page is a reproduction of Gagarin's manuscript notes for that speech.

Courtesy of The Perot Foundation

manuscript page
217 k jpeg

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