On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in outer space. His ship, Vostok 1, made one orbit of Earth before re-entering the atmosphere. Unlike other spacecraft (including the Freedom 7, which took American astronaut Alan Shepherd into space a month later), Vostok 1 could not slow down when it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. This meant that Gagarin had to parachute out of his capsule about 2.5 kilometers (8,200 feet) in the air.
 
Vostok 1 launched from the massive Baikonur Cosmodrome, part of the old Soviet Union. Now, the facility is part of Kazakhstan. Today, astonauts headed for the International Space Station still take off from Baikonur's "Gagarinsky Start"—Gagarin's launchpad.
astronaut
Noun

person who takes part in space flights.

Noun

layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

Baikonur Cosmodrome
Noun

(1955) Russian spaceport in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

facility
Noun

a building or room that serves a specific function.

International Space Station (ISS)
Noun

satellite in low-Earth orbit that houses several astronauts for months at a time.

massive
Adjective

very large or heavy.

orbit
Noun

path of one object around a more massive object.

outer space
Noun

space beyond Earth's atmosphere.

parachute
Noun

device which allows a person to glide down safely from a great elevation.

Soviet Union
Noun

(1922-1991) large northern Eurasian nation that had a communist government. Also called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR.

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