Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Celebrating Gagarin's Space Flight: Fifty Years Later

Fifty years ago today, Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space. Here in Russia, we have been bombarded with that information for weeks now. No complaints from me. See, I managed to get myself photographed with Mr. Gagarin, himself. Well, in a manner of speaking. . .

Today a ceremony was held here in Rostov-on-Don at Don State Technical University, pictured behind the statue above. Yep that's me there with Gagarin. Oh, and when Flat Stanley comes to visit, he insists on being photographed with Gagarin too.

Thanks to Russia Today, here's an interview with Victor Gorbatko, one of Gargarin's fellow pilots. Gorbatko tells about the competitive process of selecting the final cosmonaut. Oh, interesting videos abound. Another favorite is the RT interview with Ada Kitovskaya, Gagarin's personal physician.

A favorite post is Remembering the First Cosmonaut. There you'll find links to the celebration dinner honoring our hero and the special song written and song in his honor. Over the weekend, New York Times had an interesting piece, In Space, Nice Guys Finish First ~ and I'm wondering if it was there that I read about Gagarin's removing his shoes when he and other candidates first toured the space capsule. Apparently that move won him some points, here in a culture where shoe removal is Rule #1 when entering a home.

ABC News outdid themselves with this story, Yuri Gagarin: The 7 Top Things You Never Knew about the First Man in Space. Of special interest was Gargain's alleged remark upon return to earth, something about there being no God because he was in space and didn't see him. Apparently those sentiment came from Soviet Premier, Nikita Krushchev.

The statue of Gargarin looks south over Voroshilovski Street, above. Not surprisingly, the area is known as Gagarin Square.

Folks of a certain age remember that day in 1961. I asked Olga Michaelovna, my language teacher, if she remembers the day. She would have been in elementary school at the time. She said, Oh, I remember it as though it were yesterday! We were called out of our classes, out into the hallway and the principal made a big announcement on the PA system and we were absolutely overjoyed.

How about you, dear Blog Reader? Do you happen to remember that day in 1961? Or, have you met an astronaut? (I haaave! Get the scoop on that, too!) Or. . . do you dream of going to space, yourself?