Answer: Yuri Gagarin
When it comes to some historical firsts, it’s nearly impossible to pin down exact dates let alone even agree if someone was the first to do something. We often attribute the status of the first Europeans in North America to Christopher Columbus and his crew, for example, but in reality there’s ample evidence that some very gutsy Vikings beat them there by centuries. When it comes to modern firsts, however, especially the kind that require huge budgets and nation-level scientific investment–like getting into space–it’s a bit easier to pin down the exact moment a record is set.
On April 12, 1961, Russian pilot and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made history not just within the Soviet Union, but on a global scale with a historically unprecedented flight. With the launch of his space craft, Vostok 1, Gagarin became the first human to enter space and to orbit the Earth. His voyage marked the beginning of the age of space exploration and sparked the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.