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    70TH ANNIVERSARY OF GAGARIN'S BIRTHDAY

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    MOSCOW, March 9, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Yury Gagarin, the first man in space, was born 70 years ago in Gzhatsk in the Smolensk Region (Central Federal District).

    "His motto, which he wrote in his diary shortly before his death, was: 'My greatest desire is to fly. A pilot must fly,'" Tatiana Belova, the chief custodian of the Gagarin memorial museum in Gzhatsk, told RIA Novosti.

    April 12, 1961, the day of his historic flight, has entered the history of man forever. "The years that have passed since then have not lessened the impression from that feat, on the contrary, with time the interest in the personality of the Earth's first cosmonaut has increased," she said.

    Mr. Gagarin was born to a peasant family on March 9, 1934. His mother, Anna Timofeyeva, and his father, Alexei Ivanovich, were from Klushino, a village in the Gzatsk district. After the fascist occupation, the Gagarin family moved from Klushino to Gzhatsk in 1945. Mr. Gagarin entered the Saratov technical school, after graduating from a general educational school and a vocational school. (Saratov is a big industrial center on the Volga River). In 1954, he began attending the Saratov Air Club and later entered an air school in Orenburg in the southern Urals.

    On October 27, 1957, Mr. Gagarin married Valentina Goryacheva. They had two daughters, Yelena and Galina.

    The first group of cosmonauts was formed two years before the legendary launch. Chief designer Sergei Korolyov's requirements were: age, approximately 30 years; weight, up to 72 kilograms; and height, not more than 170 centimeters.

    The program for preparing the first cosmonauts was very tough. All of the pilots were thoroughly examined and underwent tests in a centrifuge, a pressure chamber, a vibro-bench and a rotating chair. The cosmonauts were also put inside a so-called "silence chamber" which was three steps long and one and a half steps wide. From July 26 to August 5, 1960, Mr. Gagarin successfully coped with all the tests.

    On April 12, 1961, the Vostok spaceship, piloted by Mr. Gagarin, the world's first cosmonaut, was launched from the Baikonur launch pad.

    The Vostok had the following parameters: orbit inclination, 64.95 degrees; period of revolution, 89.34 minutes; minimum distance from the Earth's surface, 181 kilometers; and maximum distance from the Earth's surface, 327 kilometers.

    The flight of the first cosmonaut lasted for 1 hour and 48 minutes. After one orbit around the Earth, the reentry vehicle landed in the Saratov Region. When he was several kilometers about the surface of the Earth, Mr. Gagarin ejected and landed using a parachute not far from the reentry vehicle.

    The title of "Hero of the Soviet Union," was conferred upon the world's first man is space and the day of his flight, April 12, is now, the national Day of Cosmonautics.

    Mr. Gagarin died in unclear circumstances on March 27, 1968 during a training flight in difficult weather conditions. The official version of Gagarin's death is that the MiG-15 he and Mr. Seryogin, commander of the Cosmonaut Training Center's regiment, were flying entered a spin and crashed in the forest.

    In Mr. Gagarin's memory, Gzhatsk was renamed Gagarin. The Cosmonaut Training Center, a Russian Academy of Sciences research ship, streets and squares in other cities and one of the biggest craters on the Moon (250 kilometers in diameter) were also named after Yury Gagarin.

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