60 years ago today, back in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person in history to visit space, securing victory for Moscow in its race against Washington to mark the new chapter of space exploration…
However, several details about the mission were kept secret for years by the Soviets, so many speculated that it was a total myth but low and behold, on April 12th, 1961, Gagarin’s Vostok spacecraft took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, shouting, ‘Let’s go!’ (aka ‘Poekhali’ in Russian).
It took Gagarin 108 minutes to complete one loop around the Earth before returning and despite all speculations, the Soviet hero and his flight are celebrated annually in Russia as Cosmonautics Day.
You can even view his Vostok Capsule on display at Moscow’s Museum of Cosmonautics where an exhibition dedicated to Gagarin will open tomorrow. Meanwhile, his spaceflight remains a source of national pride in Russia.
Four years prior, the USSR had also become the first country to send a satellite, Sputnik, into orbit and 60 years later, Russia often sends its cosmonauts to the ISS – in fact, last Friday, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft blasted off with 2 Russians and a US astronaut in honour of Gagarin’s flight.
Elsewhere, the USSR also later sent the first woman to space, who conducted the first spacewalk.