Sorry, John Glenn. The first human being in space was Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who on April 12, 1961, orbited the planet and lived to tell the tale. Gargarin was just 27 when he manned the crude Vostok I craft, basically a 10-ft.-wide (3 m) tin can mounted on a three-stage rocket. "The Earth is blue ... it is amazing," Gagarin radioed to ground control, as he made one full circle around the earth, flying more than 110 miles (177 km) above the planet. Gagarin's 108-minute adventure was all the more harrowing, given that he had no navigational control over his spacecraft he was literally along for the ride. Gagarin died in 1968, after crashing a MiG fighter during a training flight.