On this day in 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space as he orbited Earth aboard Vostok 1, in a 108-minute long journey.
Up until that point, The Soviet Union had successfully completed 12 out of 24 space launches. As per the FAI's (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) rules, a spaceflight only counts if the cosmonaut lands the spacecraft. Gagarin parachuted out of Vostok 1 (the braking system having not been fully figured out), and was forced to lie in press conferences. The Soviet Union only revealed the truth in 1971. In any case, Gagarin was the first human in space.
Tragically, Gagarin died in a plane crash in March 1968, at the age of 34. April 12 is celebrated as the International Day of Human Space Flight around the world, and as Cosmonautics Day in Russia.