Article 166

“60 Years since First Human Space Flight”

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In April 2021, it will be 60 years since the first human being saw our beautiful Earth from space. On 12 April 1961, Colonel Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, a Soviet Air Force pilot, strapped himself into the small Vostok 1 spacecraft, mounted on top of a powerful R-7 Semyorka rocket.

Gagarin’s exclamation “Поехали!” (‘Poyekhali!’ – “Let’s go!”) – as the booster rockets ignited and his spacecraft roared upwards – is legendary. From take-off at Tyuratam (now Baikonur Cosmodrome) to landing near the city of Engels, his daring single orbit of Earth took 108 minutes.

Gagarin, who was 27 years old at the time of his historic space flight, died 7 years later, when his plane crashed during a routine training flight.

A memorial honouring Gagarin was unveiled at the South African National Space Agency’s (SANSA) Space Science Centre in Hermanus on 5 November 2020, by Mr Iakov Baskakov, Acting Consul General of the Russian Federation in Cape Town, and Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell, Managing Director of SANSA Space Science.

Published in The Muse, Pinelands Community Magazine, in April 2021.