Today is the 52nd anniversary of the first human in space. On April 12th, 1961, Yuri Gagarin took off in the Vostok 1 rocket and became the first human to enter space and complete an orbit of the planet, earning his place in the history books. He remained in space for 102 minutes before safely re-entering the atmosphere and landing to the south of Moscow. This monumental event represented a propaganda coup for the USSR in the cold war with the United States and provided them with ample opportunity to laud their victory over their opponents.
The USSR took advantage of the opportunity to distribute content which they had recorded throughout the experience including video of the launch, images taken from orbit and audio recorded of Yuri both prior to and after the flight. The following video shows footage taken before and after the flight, and a sample of the hero’s welcome which Yuri received upon his return to earth when he became a national hero and received the title of Hero of the USSR, the nation’s highest honour.
The flight also received international attention from the world’s media, including making the cover of Time, Newsweek and newspapers around the world, examples of which follow.
Those of you wishing to relive the experience can watch the film First Orbit, where the flight taken by Yuri Gagarin is tracked by the International Space Station and is overlaid with the audio recorded from that historic first flight. It starts with the message which Yuri recorded before he boarded the rocket, addressed to the people of the world.
To celebrate the anniversary of the first human in space Vladimir Putin today announced a $50 billion drive for space supremacy. Russia remains to this day one of the leading space-faring nations. Since the decommissioning of the space shuttle, Russia has taken responsibility for resupplying the International Space Station using it’s Soyuz rockets. However, they have recently encountered competition from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the first private company to launch an unmanned rocket into space, dock with the space station and return safely to earth.