<p><strong>Soviet cosmonaut <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/223437/Yury-Alekseyevich-Gagarin">Yuri Gagarin</a>—honored today with a<a href="http://www.google.com/doodle4google/history.html"> Google Doodle</a>—waves from a car outside the Russian Embassy in London in July 1961, a few months after he became the first human to fly in space. Today marks the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's historic first orbit around Earth aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft. </strong></p><p>(Watch <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/110412-yuri-gagarin-anniversary-google-doodle-first-orbit-space-science/">astronaut footage that re-creates what Yuri Gagarin saw</a>.)</p><p>Upon his safe return, Gagarin was hailed as a hero, both at home and abroad, said <a href="http://www.nasm.si.edu/staffDetail.cfm?staffID=38">Cathleen Lewis</a>, the curator of international space programs and space suits at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C.</p><p>"He was greeted with crowds and a great deal of warmth," Lewis said. "I think people really were fascinated. They looked beyond the Cold War aspect and looked to [Gagarin] as a hero of this science fiction fantasy of space flight."</p><p><em>—Ker Than</em></p><p><strong>Related Space-Age Content</strong></p><ul class="bullets"><li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 10pt; font-family: Times New Roman; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;"><a href="http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/12/on-yuri-gagarins-night-spy-the-space-station-flying-overhead/">On Yuri Gagarin's Night, Spy the Space Station Flying Overhead</a></li><li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 10pt; font-family: Times New Roman; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;"><a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/1969/12/moon-landing/moon-audio-interactive">"Sounds of the Space Age" interactive</a></li><li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 10pt; font-family: Times New Roman; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;"><a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/10/space-travel/space-travel-photography">Pictures: Sputnik at 50</a></li><li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 10pt; font-family: Times New Roman; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;"><a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/10/space-travel/space-timeline-interactive">Space Travel Time Line</a></li><li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 10pt; font-family: Times New Roman; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;"><a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/05/photogalleries/space-monkeys-fifty-years/index.html">Space Monkey Pictures: 50-Year Anniversary</a></li><li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 10pt; font-family: Times New Roman; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;"><a href="http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/space-exploration/early-manned-spaceflight.html">Early Manned Spaceflight</a></li></ul>

Yuri Gagarin Celebrated

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin—honored today with a Google Doodle—waves from a car outside the Russian Embassy in London in July 1961, a few months after he became the first human to fly in space. Today marks the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's historic first orbit around Earth aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft.

(Watch astronaut footage that re-creates what Yuri Gagarin saw.)

Upon his safe return, Gagarin was hailed as a hero, both at home and abroad, said Cathleen Lewis, the curator of international space programs and space suits at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C.

"He was greeted with crowds and a great deal of warmth," Lewis said. "I think people really were fascinated. They looked beyond the Cold War aspect and looked to [Gagarin] as a hero of this science fiction fantasy of space flight."

—Ker Than

Related Space-Age Content

Photograph by AP

Yuri Gagarin: First Human Space Flight in Pictures

On the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first orbit, see pictures of the man, his spacecraft, and the global impact of his flight.

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