Many people know the name of the first man who flew into space. On April 12, 1961 a Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made a 108-minute orbital flight in his Vostok-1 spacecraft. Upon his return to Earth, Gagarin became an international hero. The whole world knew his last words at the moment of launching “Poyekhali!” (Let's go!), as well as his smile. Even one sort of gladiolus got a name “Gagarin’s Smile”. However, not many people know about his tragic death in a jet crash. One hundred kilometers from Moscow, near Novoselovo village in the Vladimir Region, there is a memorial of the first cosmonaut reared on this spot.
Clearly, many people will surpass Gagarin. But after a flight, nobody will smile at humanity and the universe as much as Yuri Gagarin. And that is important, much more important than you might think… Yuri Nagibin
After the orbital flight, Yuri Gagarin continued to make flights for the Air Force. On March 27, 1968, he and a flight instructor Vladimir Seregin operated a routine training flight. The cause of the crash still remains a mystery. The remains of the first cosmonaut are buried in the necropolis of the Kremlin wall on the Red Square. On the territory of the memorial, you can see MiG-15UTI, the same kind of a jet that Gagarin operated during his last flight.
A small green building was built specially for Gagarin’s mother, who regularly came to this place. Nowadays, in this building, there is a small spontaneous museum. It is not official, but here you can see rare photos, badges, books, and other materials devoted to both, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and test-pilot Vladimir Seregin. Now the Russian cosmonauts continue to visit this house and take tea in the dining-room.
A long alley leads to the spot of the jet crash. You can see the obelisk erected at the place of the crater made by the jet when it crashed into the ground on high speed. The red granite stele symbolizes the flame rising from the crashed jet. The portraits of Gagarin and Seregin are carved on this stele. Few birches cut by the falling jet still remain around.
Nearby this memorial, the St. Andrew Church was built in 1825 and recently restored with help of Alexei Leonov, a Russian cosmonaut who conducted the first-ever spacewalk in 1965. This is a really unique ‘cosmonaut’ church because only here the ceiling paintings contain not only the images of God and angels but also of planets and spaceships. A group of saints depicted on the wall is a group of celestial patrons of the first cosmonauts team, and they have the same names.
It was not just his courage that made Yuri Gagarin a hero. He is always remembered as a simple, friendly man, brilliant engineer and perfect diplomat. Yuri Gagarin’s smile remains a symbol of space exploration. He became the first and will remain the first forever. There are many Gagarin’s monuments and museums, but the memorial of the first cosmonaut near Novoselovo is a special one. The reconstruction of the place is going on.
So far I lived an honest, rightful life. I served the people, even though this service was a little one. In my childhood, I read Valery Chkalov’s words: ‘If being, then be first’. Well, I’m trying to be one and I will be to the end. Yuri Gagarin
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