Russia’s Cosmonautics Day: Beyond the Stars

Russia’s Cosmonautics Day: Beyond the Stars

It’s not “Cosmonauts Day” as you might think, but “Cosmonautics Day,” which rhymes with “robotics” and “aeronautics.” They’re all appropriate words when it comes to Russia’s Yuri Gagarin and the world’s first manned space flight on April 12, 1961.

As the USSR's first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin was named "Hero of the Soviet Union" Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

As the USSR’s first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin was named “Hero of the Soviet Union”

Pioneering CosmonautGagarin was only 27 years old when he blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, soaring into space aboard the “Vostok” (“East”) as the Soviet Union’s first cosmonaut; his flight time was just under two hours. His pioneering flight was a big plus for the Soviets in a space race with its Cold War nemesis, the United States. For that pioneering flight, Gagarin was presented the U.S.S.R.’s top award, “Hero of the Soviet Union.”

A moment of glory: Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's became the first human in space on April 12, 1961

A moment of glory: Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s became the first human in space on April 12, 1961

Yuri Gagarin's original 1961 space capsule, on display near Moscow, Russia Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Yuri Gagarin’s original 1961 space capsule, on display near Moscow, Russia
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Cosmonauts who followed in Gagarin’s pioneering path
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Cosmonautics DaySince 1962, Gagarin’s achievement is celebrated on April 12th, “Cosmonautics Day.” These days, it’s observed with an official ceremony that starts at Yuri’s statue near Moscow Mission Control. Beyond Russia, space fans around the world celebrate in “Yuri’s Night,” from flash dance mobs to space-based parties featuring movies, star-gazing, and even space-themed weddings.

MIR Founder Douglas Grimes celebrates "Yuri's Night" at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA Photo credit: Annie Lucas

MIR Founder Douglas Grimes celebrates “Yuri’s Night” at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA
Photo credit: Annie Lucas

Titanium statue of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in Moscow, Russia Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

Titanium statue of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in Moscow, Russia
Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

It's tradition to raise hands at Yuri Gagarin's statue in Baikonur, Kazakhstan Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

It’s tradition to raise hands at Yuri Gagarin’s statue in Baikonur, Kazakhstan
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

MIR’s Space TravelsMIR has been leading intrepid space buffs Inside the Russian Space Program – that’s the tour’s name, appropriately – for several years. A popular option is cosmonaut training, which includes experiencing a Zero-G flight at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. You’re literally walking – and floating! – in the steps of Soviet space explorers.

Flying high in Zero-G weightlessness in Star City, Russia
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Mission Control Center
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

An unforgettable highlight of the tour is witnessing the launch of a Soyuz rocket as it speeds toward the International Space Station.

Rollout of the Soyuz rocket in Baikonur, Kazakhstan
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Blastoff from Baikonur, Kazakhstan! Destination: International Space Station Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Blastoff from Baikonur, Kazakhstan! Destination: International Space Station
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Here, in Gagarin’s footsteps, it is easy to imagine 1961 all over again, and a race into space that captured two competing nations for generations.

Beyond the stars…

Where stars are truly born, in this nursery of new stars 2.7 million light-years away Photo credit: National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)

Where stars are truly born, in this nursery of new stars 2.7 million light-years away
Photo credit: National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)

Travel Inside Russia’s Space Program with MIRJoin MIR’s journey of close encounters with Russian cosmonauts, space officials, and their training facilities on an unforgettable MIR tour, Inside the Russian Space Program.

 (Top photo credit: Douglas Grimes)

 

PUBLISHED: March 24, 2014

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