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The Soviet Union dedicated significant resources to its space program, viewing it as a race against the United States and a chance to prove to the world its scientific and technologic superiority. A number of courageous "cosmonauts" were the first human beings to reach space and orbit the Earth in small capsules. In April 1961 Yuri Gagarin was the first man to reach orbit and circled the world for 108 minutes about the spacecraft Vostok 1; the first woman launched into space was Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, orbiting the Earth for almost three days.