Gagarin's Flight was "A Giant Leap in our Evolution as a Species"
April 10, 2011 • 5:54PM

That is the way U.S. astronaut Ron Garan characterized the significance of the first human space flight by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, 50 years ago on April 12th. Garan, who believes he is related to Gagarin through a great grandfather who immigrated to the United States under the name Ivan Gagarin, launched on April 4th to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz, with two Russian colleagues. That rocket took off from the same launchpad as did Gagarin, a half century ago. This rocket was uniquely decorated with a likeness of Yuri Gagarin, and was named for him.

In January, Prime Minister Putin declared 2011 to be the Year of Russian Cosmonautics. Celebrations, student space contests, special exhibits, lectures and conferences are taking place not only in Russia, but around the world. On April 7th, the United National General Assembly declared April 12th as the International Day of Human Space Flight, and visiting cosmonaut, Oleg Kotov, opened a photo exhibition celebrating the flight. Conferences are scheduled in the U.S., and heads of space agencies, including NASA, will be in Moscow next week, for discussions on future cooperation.

"Gagarin's name is a symbol of the conquest of space," astronaut Garan said, "a symbol of the dreams of generations of people to fly from our planet beyond the bound of what is possible."