A Man Even Americans Should Know

Gagarin Circles the Earth

April 10, 2017

Allan Stevo

On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin went into space and circled Earth.  May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard did the first of those feats.  February 20, 1962, almost a year later, John Glenn accomplished both of those feats.

January 27, 1986, I learned about Americans John Glenn and Alan Shepard but someone, somehow neglected to mention Russian Yuri Gagarin.  This lesson took place the day before my class and I were shuttled into the “learning center,” as our school library was then called, and were all sat down to watch the space shuttle Challenger go 73 seconds into the air before doing what every kid in that room immediately understood to be blowing up.  The teachers were the ones who had a hard time acknowledging that fact.

The tragedy took place nearly 25 years after Gagarin became the first man to go into space, 29 after Lajka became the first dog sent into space on Sputnik 2 and also 29 years before Sputnik 1 became the first satellite in space.  The Challenger blew up 23 years before cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space (16 June 1963).  These were all Soviet accomplishments.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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