The First Man in Space

On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.

In 1955, he joined the Soviet Army and became a pilot.  After a long selection process, Gagarin was chosen because he could endure the physical and psychological tests, the scientists threw at him.  He was also quite short, being only 5' 2" tall meaning he could fit easily into the capsule.

On board the Vostok 1, Gagarin was launched and achieved Earth orbit ten minutes later.
He orbited the Earth for 70 minutes and then the capsule began its decent.

At about 7km high, Gagarin ejected and landed separately from the capsule.
He landed on Earth 10 minutes later.

It was another coup for the Soviets, having beaten the Americans into space again.

First Woman in Space

In 1963, the Russians achieved another first with the first woman in space.

Valentina Tereshkova was launched on Vostok 6 at the age of 26, and spent 3 days in orbit, circling the Earth 48 times.
 

The launch of Vostok 1 and Yuri Gagarin