Yuri Gagarin: How the first man in space sparked a conspiracy theory

Everybody knows that Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon. Most are also aware that he wasn’t the first to go into space. After all, Alan Shepard paved the way for American astronauts on May 5, 1961, while Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin stole a march by rocketing into Earth orbit a few weeks earlier on April 12. Or did he? 

Today Gagarin’s name is cemented in the record books, and he instantly became a national hero across the Soviet Union. Presented as a triumph of the fiercely fought Space Race against the U.S., the 27 year old, who had been chosen just three days before the mission, spent 108 minutes in space, orbited the Earth and returned fit and well following a drama-filled flight.

In Photos:
Yuri Gagarin, First Man in Space
Related: From Yuri Gagarin’s launch to today, human spaceflight has always been political


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