First Orbit – 50 years on

On 12 April 1961, Vostok 1 was launched and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the planet.  The BBC have a number of articles online as Russia marks the 50th anniversary of that flight – or, as the Guardian’s GrrlScientist calls it, Happy Yuri’s Night!  Nasa have some images, and this short clip of the launch from their archives.

And, if you have the time, the Guardian point to this feature length documentary, First Orbit.

But remember, compared to the rest of space, that’s just a trip down the road to the chemist’s…

Adds As Rand Simberg pointed out yesterday

It’s another human spaceflight anniversary as well. It will have been exactly thirty years since the first flight of a Space Shuttle (Columbia), on April 12th, 1981. The program is scheduled to be retired this year after three decades of service (including two periods of almost three years each when it was shut down as a result of the Challenger and Columbia losses, in 1986 and 2003, respectively). That the date is the same is a coincidence — NASA had originally scheduled the first flight for April 10th, but a computer timing glitch delayed it for two days, serendipitously resulting in the inaugural launch occurring exactly two decades after the first human spaceflight.

You can read more on the Space Shuttle Era at Nasa.

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  • Student of the World

    Simberg,
    Good job making the connection to the first shuttle launch. Many of us in the US are saddened to see the shuttle program come to a close.

    Although many people are hoping to see a new ambitious project taken on by NASA, I find it difficult to get excited about spending billions on launching some guy off to Mars when that money could provide enough schools and hospitals in Africa to forever change its social geography. Hopefully the world has matured enough to realize which is really more important.

  • Pete Baker

    Not that pointless, myopic, argument again…

    *shakes head*

  • Kevin Barry

    Thanks for this Pete,

    Truly awe inspiring when you think about what he did.

    Saw this in Novaya Gazeta, don’t know if you have seen yourself but thought it was very interesting

    http://en.novayagazeta.ru/data/2011/036/00.html

  • pippakin

    Going back to my youth and quite possibly coping with a touch of sympathetic amnesia, wasn’t there a dog fired into space by the Russians? and I seem to recall a couple of monkeys heading off in the same direction.

    Bet Gugarin, like the rest of us, was glad he had two legs and back ache.

  • joeCanuck

    Yep, Pippakin. The dog was called Laika as I recall and the heartless bastards had no way of bringing her down again.

  • pippakin

    Yep, thought so, nothing much to celebrate here, unless it be mans unending cruelty to anything smaller and weaker than we are.

  • Pete Baker

    Well, you just wait in the corner then, pip.

    The rest of us will celebrate.

  • pippakin

    I pointed out that mans advance into space was not without the usual sacrifice. Fifty years on its worth asking the questions: why? and what has it achieved?

  • Kevin Barry

    I’m reminded of what Professor Farndsworth said in Futurama on the progress of science

    ‘scientific progress is built on piles of dead monkeys’

    Sad, but true, still, I enjoyed Yuri’s night.