Article 165

“Remembering Yuri Gagarin – Part 2: Memorial to Gagarin unveiled at the southern tip of Africa!”

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When we look back at human history on this planet, it seems that we have always raised our eyes up to the skies, and longed to soar among the birds and high above the clouds – and even to venture far beyond Earth’s atmosphere, among the stars!

Humankind’s presence in space officially began in April 1961, when Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was chosen to be humankind’s first emissary to space.

On the morning of 12 April 1961, Soviet Air Force pilot Gagarin climbed into the small spherical Vostok 1 space capsule, mounted ontop of a powerful Vostok-K rocket, and prepared to be launched into orbit around our beautiful planetary home.

Gagarin’s exuberant exclamation “Поехали!” (Poyekhali!) – “Let’s go!” – as the booster rockets ignited in a blinding flash of light and his spacecraft roared up into the heavens – has become legendary. From take-off to landing, his daring flight – one orbit around the Earth – lasted 108 minutes.

12 April 2021 thus marks the 60th anniversary of the first manned space flight.

In recognition of this historic milestone of space exploration, a memorial honouring Gagarin was recently unveiled at the South African National Space Agency’s (SANSA) Space Science Centre in the small coastal town of Hermanus. The ceremony, held on 5 November 2020, was organised by the Consulate of the Russian Federation in Cape Town. I was delighted to receive an invitation to attend.

Published in the Military Despatches of April 2021.