By Steve Kovacs (Introduction by Chuck Gibson)

LOVELAND, OH (April 12, 2024) – In this edition of Fun with Maps we celebrate the first human to orbit the Earth.


The heavens have held man’s interest and imagination for a long time.   From a science point of view, the first breakthrough came with the advent of telescopes for a closer look at celestial objects. Then flight followed, but still bound by Earth’s gravity. Jet propulsion developed in the early to mid-20th century enabled the ability to go higher and faster.

The first object reaching escape velocity was Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. The U.S. quickly followed. 

After a series of animal voyages into near Earth orbits, the first human orbiting Earth was 27-year-old Russian, Yuri Gagarin. He orbited the Earth once in Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961. Alan Shepard followed on May 5, 1961 as part of the Mercury program thus becoming the first American orbiting Earth.

As we know, the tables started to turn and the U.S. took leadership of space exploration – landing on the moon in 1969, sending probes into deep space, exploring Mars, etc.

The quest to reach further and further into space and to heavenly objects continues, as space is our final frontier.

Seutter’s celestial chart of the northern and southern skies is presented here from 1730.

Double Hemisphere Celestial Chart – 1730 (credit Steve Kovacs)

Steve Kovacs and his wife Theresa reside in Loveland, Ohio where they raised their two children. He is a passionate collector of antique maps.

Visit his antique map boutique world-on-paper online. Watch for his daily feature Steve Kovacs: Fun with Maps here on Loveland Beacon.