Today marks the 50th anniversary of of the first manned space flight by Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, Soviet pilot, cosmonaut and hero.
This article is a good biography on Gagarin, giving some insight into his childhood, his upbringing and his motivations.
During the course of training, Gagarin had shown that he was the most flexible and adaptable to command — and to surrounding circumstances. He knew how to fit in – yet stand out. He had a chameleon-like ability to adapt physically and mentally to every situation – and to maintain lines of communication with the parallel structures. He was quick on the uptake, capable of improvising the proper response and meeting people’s expectations.