On 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin blasted off the launch pad in Baikonur at 9:08 AM local time. His call-sign for the flight was “Cedar.” Sergei Korolev, the Program’s Chief Designer, would call from the ground, “‘Dawn’ calling ‘Cedar.’” Gagarin made his historic 108 minute flight (orbiting around the whole Earth once) and parachute landed near his Vostok 1 capsule in the plains of Russia. This flight made him the first human to orbit the Earth and an international hero. Yuri was only 27 years old.
Seven years after his flight, on Wednesday 27 March 1968, Yuri was piloting a MiG-15 when he got into a tragic crash that ended his life. He was 34. People say that that is why John Glenn was not allowed to fly again for so long – to protect him. Yuri is survived by his wife Valentina and his two daughters, Lenochka and Galochka.
The Cosmonaut program is rich with traditions that honor Yuri’s first flight. It is customary to visit the Gagarin Memorial before your mission, to sign the log book in Yuri’s unchanged office, and to urinate on the tire of the bus that brings you to the launch pad (mostly because Yuri had to himself right before his flight). We hope the world will celebrate 12 April together and create new traditions of space and unity.
So around the world a party is thrown to celebrate the entry of the human race into the space age.
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