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.
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.