On April 12, humanity will have been spaceworthy for a full half century. In 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin spent 108 minutes in space before parachuting back to Earth. Earlier today, a Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off with three contemporary astronauts in a spacecraft named for the first man to leave the planet.
Despite the Cold War bias, Gagarin remains one of the most popular figures in the space saga. His short flight gave the U.S.S.R. another early advantage over the U.S. space program and had him ranked #6—tied with Captain Kirk of Star Trek—in a 2010 Space Foundation survey as the most popular space hero. Gagarin is now the namesake for a superjet and the latest Soyuz capsule, which will rendezvous with the International Space Station tomorrow after a two-day journey.
Next Tuesday is Yuri’s Night (not Yuri’s Day, which is something else), a world party for space. Conceived in 2001, this is a space geek celebration of Gagarin’s journey, as well as the first Space Shuttle flight on the same date in 1981. I’m sure something special is planned for this special anniversary year, which will also see the end of the Shuttle program.Tags: anniversary, history, Space, Space Shuttle, Yuri Gagarin