Sixty years ago, in the year 1961, four human beings traveled into space. These space-farers were all men, two from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and two from the United States of America. One of these men, Yuri Gagarin, became on April 12, 1961 the first human to leave planet Earth in human history. All four of them were at once taking part in a great human adventure and fighting the Cold War on behalf of their respective countries.

In 2021, I am commemorating sixty years of human spaceflight with a post series here on, “1961: The First Men in Space.” On the anniversary of each of the four spaceflights, I will publish a post that uses the flight as a starting-point to discuss some aspect of the history and memory of early human spaceflight. The series kicks off tomorrow, the anniversary of Gagarin’s flight, and continues May 5 (Alan Shepard’s flight), July 21 (Gus Grissom), and August 6 (Gherman Titov).