Observations

50th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s First Space Flight

The Yuri Gagarin memorial at Star City
The Yuri Gagarin memorial at Star City near Moscow. Image and copyright Nick Lomb ©, all rights reserved.

 

Fifty years ago today humanity began its journey into space.

On the morning of April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin bravely sat atop an explosive can of kerosene and liquid oxygen. A few minutes later he was travelling at over 38,000 km/hr a few hundred kilometres above the ground. He was the first person in space.

His historic flight lasted 108 minutes and made just one orbit of the Earth. After crossing Siberia he passed over the Pacific and southern Atlantic oceans. Over Africa, as he descended back into the atmosphere, his mission almost ended when his capsule initially failed to separate from a service module. Finally, he leapt from the capsule and parachuted into a remote field not far from the Volga river.

In Australia most kids know Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon, but few can name the first man to fly into space. In Russia he remains a national hero. On Sydney Observatory’s 2008 Solar Eclipse trip to Russia we visited the museum at Star City near Moscow where several rooms are dedicated to Yuri Alekseyevich.

This brave, humble & smiling man deserves to be better known.

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