Yuri Gagarin made a single orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961. It was a Wednesday. His flight lasted 1 hour and 46 minutes at an orbital speed of approximately 17,000 miles per hour.
Yuri's parents were collective farm residents in the [formerly] small village of Gzhatsk, where his father was a carpenter and his mother was a dairy-maiden. During the Nazi occupation of his home region, officers took over their home and the family lived in a mud hut. Yuri's two elder siblings were deported to Poland for slave labor, but returned home after the war. Today, Gzhatsk has grown by more than 30,000 inhabitants, is called "Gagarin City".
Юрий Гагарин 1934 - 1968
In the Soviet Test Pilots program, he was well-known for having top grades, withstanding 13Gs in a centrifuge and, as a part of the psychological training for space flight, lasted longer in a bare, dark and soundless room than any other trainee (over 24 hours).
One of the last things Gagarin said before his famous sign off, was: "The main thing is that there is sausage -- to go with the moonshine." The scientist who had been describing his foodstuffs to him dashed off an expletive, realizing that their flight relay recorder was running, and would forever remember Yuri's remark!
Yuri was singing and whistling to himself inside Vostok 1 while Soviet Mission Control conducted their various last-minute checks.
Thumbs up! Gagarin, Tereshkova & Leonov in 1967
An elderly woman, her grand-daughter and a [probably very unimpressed] cow were the first to see Gagarin return to the planet via parachute.
He later had a ship named after him. The Kosmonaut Yuri Gagarin or Космона́вт Ю́рий Гага́рин, built in 1971, was a space control-monitoring ship devoted to detecting and receiving satellite communications. The KYG also later conducted upper atmosphere and outer space research.
Yuri Gagarin was named Hero of the Soviet Union, and because the government wanted to protect their national treasure, he was barred from flying space again. Ironically, after being promoted to Colonel, but relegated back to test pilot status in the Soviet Air Force, he was killed at the age of 34 when his MiG-15 crashed during a training exercise. Cause unknown.
"Circling the Earth in the orbital spaceship, I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world! Let us safeguard and enhance this beauty, not destroy it!" ~ Yuri Gagarin, 1961
Yuri got so much fan mail, the Soviet postal service of the time created a Zone designation (what we would call a "zip code" in America) just for him.
He lent his name to the Yuri A. Gagarin State Scientific Research-and-Testing Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC), a formerly secret military base, where men and women of many different North American, European and formerly-Soviet nations all now train for space travel.
There are 12 (yes, twelve!) commemorative statues and sculptures of Yuri in various cities across Russia.