Yesterday, April 12th, marked the 47th anniversary of the flight of the first man in space, citizen of the USSR, twenty-seven year old Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin. This brave and heroic Russian cosmonaut put his name and the name of the country forever in the annals of history as one of mankind’s most shining and proudest moments, the exploration of the cosmos for peaceful purposes.
A year later, April 12th was established as the Day of the Cosmonaut in Russia. The day was just marked in 2008 by a dedication and commitment by the country’s leaders to continue what Yuri Gagarin began.
On March 9, 1934, Yuri Gagarin was born in the countryside just west of Moscow. He grew up in a small village called Klushino, on a collective farm, where his father worked as a carpenter. He and his family knew very well the horrors of the Great Patriotic War. When Yuri was seven years old, the German armies invaded Russia. Yuri’s father joined the army, while his mother took him and his older brother and sister away from the fighting.
Yuri demonstrated a natural talent for flying, and when he graduated from college in 1955, he joined the Soviet Air Force where he became an accomplished test pilot. He later volunteered for the cosmonaut program and became part of the first team of men to be trained for manned space flight. His instructors described him as bright, resourceful and full of useful suggestions.
Upon launch, Cosmonaut Gagarin gave an enthusiastic and now famous exclamation, “ Поехали !" (“Let's go!” --Paiyekali!). The historic flight lasted 109 minutes. His craft orbited Earth one time at an altitude of 187 3/4 miles (302 kilometers) at 18,000 miles an hour.
Cosmonaut Gagarin ejected from the Vostok I at an altitude of approximately 7 kilometers and landed safely. In a field near the village of Smelovaka, two farm workers and a cow were the first earthlings to see him return to Earth. They looked up in the sky to see a man parachuting down towards them wearing a bright orange suit and a white helmet. When he landed they approached him and asked: "Have you come from outer space?"
"Yes, yes, would you believe it' he answered with a big grin, "I certainly have. Don't be afraid, I am a Soviet like you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!” For his endeavor he was awarded Hero of the Soviet Union.
Concerned about tripping on a loose shoe lace, Cosmonaut Gagarin managed to report to the country’s leader in flawless military fashion with a salute, ‘The first space flight in the history of mankind aboard the Soviet spaceship Vostok is complete. All the equipment functioned without fault. I feel fine, and I am ready to carry out any new mission. Major Gagarin.”
Cosmonaut Gagarin fully intended to continue to contribute to space exploration: “I would like to travel to Venus… and see for myself if there are canals on Mars. I believe it’s not long before we see the Moon, our next-door neighbor.” And so he did until the day he died in 1968 during a routine training flight in a MiG-15.
Yuri Gagarin’s space flight was confirmation that the country had finally recovered from the devastation of war and that the economic model that produced this feat was working well. The event stands out as one of the of most superlatively excellent moments in the country’s history and, indeed, world history as well.
The hero cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the heroes of the Great Patriotic War can and should serve as an example of what the country is capable of, rising above any and all obstacles, to be the greatest country in the history of mankind.
It is also well to remember the words uttered once by Prince Alexander Nevsky, in the 13th century, who said: "Whosoever shall come to us with the sword shall perish by it. Upon this stood and stands the land of Russia." Space is to be used for PEACE, not for the monstrous vehicles of war!