Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One Wonderful Moment: Yuri Gagarin

On this day,50 years ago, Yuri Gagarin was about to see what no one else in all of Earth's history had ever seen:
The Earth from Space.

Launch of the Vostock 1 April 12th 1961

Yuri's control panel.

He took his first solo
flight in 1955.

Like any good pilot, Yuri enjoyed a well-engineered, fast car.

In November 1957, at the age of 23, Yuri graduated with top-ranking honors from Orenburg and became a lieutenant in the Soviet Air Force. It was also on this day in his new officer's greatcoat that he married his beautiful Valya.

When word came that Yuri was the cosmonaut chosen to attempt the dangerous voyage into outer space, he and Valya talked all night. With trembling lips she asked him, "Why you?" By morning she would say, "If you are sure of yourself go. Everything will be all right."

Yuri's Flightpath

Before going into Space ,Yuri had a message for the world:

"Dear friends, both known and unknown to me, fellow Russians, and people of all countries and continents, in a few minutes a mighty spaceship will carry me into the far-away expanses of space. What can I say to you in these last minutes before the start? At this instant, the whole of my life seems to be condensed into one wonderful moment. Everything I have experienced and done till now has been in preparation for this moment. You must realize that it is hard to express my feeling now that the test for which we have been training long and passionately is at hand. I don't have to tell you what I felt when it was suggested that I should make this flight, the first in history. Was it joy? No, it was something more than that. Pride? No, it was not just pride. I felt great happiness. To be the first to enter the cosmos, to engage single handed in an unprecedented duel with nature - could anyone dream of anything greater than that? But immediately after that I thought of the tremendous responsibility I bore: to be the first to do what generations of people had dreamed of; to be the first to pave the way into space for mankind. This responsibility is not toward one person, not toward a few dozen, not toward a group. It is a responsibility toward all mankind - toward its present and its future. Am I happy as I set off on this space flight? Of course I'm happy. After all, in all times and epochs the greatest happiness for man has been to take part in new discoveries. It is a matter of minutes now before the start. I say to you, 'Until we meet again,' dear friends, just as people say to each other when setting out on a long journey. I would like very much to embrace you all, people known and unknown to me, close friends and strangers alike. See you soon!"

Accounts of his first words vary,but I like these: to a woman and a girl near where his capsule landed (12 April 1961) The woman asked: "Can it be that you have come from outer space?" to which Gagarin replied: "As a matter of fact, I have!"

Recently a film was made about Gagarin's historic flight using footage shot from the International Space Station  combined with recordings of Yuri's actual radio transmissions during the spaceflight.It gives you a chance to see what he saw and listen to his voice as he saw it:

First Orbit - Thanks Wayne!

Vostock 1 Monument Engels,Russia

On March 27, 1968, at age 34, Yuri Gagarin was killed when the jet he was test piloting crashed. His death was mourned by the world, as his ashes were buried alongside other Soviet heroes in the Kremlin Wall.

In July of 1971, the astronauts of the Apollo 15 mission visited the moon and left behind a plaque in memory of the 14 men, Russian and American, that had died leading mankind into space.

In honor of his great contributions to space exploration, a crater on the moon was named after him.

Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin had made his mark on history.

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