Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yuri's Night

"I saw for the first time the earth's shape. I could easily see the shores of continents, islands, great rivers, folds of the terrain, large bodies of water. The horizon is dark blue, smoothly turning to black. . . the feelings which filled me I can express with one word—joy."
— Yuri A. Gagarin
Today, April 12, is the 50 anniversary of mankind entering the space-age and according to MSNBC the "whole world" will be celebrating Yuri's Night. That was news to me and who the heck is Yuri? The answer is Yuri Gagarin (Ю́рий Алексе́евич Гага́рин), the first human in space by completing one orbit around the Earth.  After re-entry, Gagarin ejected from the craft and landed safely by parachute. Yuri Gagarin became a worldwide celebrity, touring widely abroad with visits to Italy, Germany, Canada, Japan, Finland, and the United Kingdom to promote the Soviet coup of being the first country to put a human in space with Vostok 1. [What? No US tour? :-) ]
In a 2010 Space Foundation survey, Gagarin was ranked as the #6 most popular space hero, tied with Star Trek's fictional Capt. James T. Kirk.

Bottom Line

Coincidentally (?) April 12 is also the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle mission. In a way that's depressing. We've accomplished so little in space in 50 years (or even the past 30). The exploits of science fiction like 2001, A Space Odyssey or Star Trek seem so very far away.

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