yuri gagarin pictures Yuri Gagarin Photo Gallery On April 12, 1961 the first earthling escaped the gravity well of planet earth. In the spaceship Vostok 1, Senior Lieutenant Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin orbited earth one time at an altitude of 187 3/4 miles (302 kilometers) for 108 minutes at 18,000 miles an hour. He was the first man to see that the earth was indeed round, indeed mostly water, and indeed magnificent. But who was this hero that hundreds of thousands of people greeted in the streets? How was it that he alone was chosen to break the barrier of gravity, to "go where no man had gone before"?