"The feeling of weightlessness was somewhat unfamiliar compared with Earth conditions. Here, you feel as if you were hanging in a horizontal position in straps. You feel as if you are suspended." – Yuri Gagarin on being the first human in space On April 12, 1961, a Russian cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin made space history when he became the first human being to blast off into space, aboard a bell-shaped capsule known as Voystok 1.
In 108 minutes, he circled the Earth, passing over the Pacific Ocean, the Straits of Magellan, the Atlantic and Africa before Voystok 1 reentered the Earth's atmosphere and landed near Engels, Russia.
Gagarin became a national hero overnight, and his untimely death seven years later while piloting a MiG-15 fighter jet during a routine training flight was a national tragedy in the Soviet Union. But Gagarin's status as a hero now transcends Mother Russia: "Yuri's Night" is a global Webcast celebration, held each year on April 12 in his honor.
And this year, there is an extra-special twist in honor of the 50th anniversary of that historic flight. "Yuri's Night" 2011 will feature the world premiere - on YouTube, no less - of an experimental documentary film called First Orbit, by Chris Riley, co-director of In the Shadow of the Moon. Done in collaboration with the European Space Agency, First Orbit was shot aboard the International Space Station by ISS Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who is an accomplished space photographer as well as an astronaut.