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Yuri Gagarin before launch of Vostok 1, 12 April 1961 "Gagarin" - Soyuz TMA-21 rocket launched on 5 April 2011
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1. www.energia.ru

2. Search "Gagarin" on www.sciencephoto.com

3. Search "Soyuz TMA-21" on www.nasa.gov

Man steps on the Moon, 20 July 1969

click here for NASA images

Yuri Gagarin dared to risk his life in space flight

The Soyuz TMA-21 rocket was successfully launched on 5 April 2011 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying Expedition 27 Soyuz Commander Alexander Samokutyaev, NASA Flight Engineer Ron Garan, and Russian Flight Engineer Andrey Borisenko to the International Space Station. The Soyuz, which is being called "Gagarin", lifted off one week before the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight of Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin from the same launch pad on 12 April 1961.

Half a century later and two decades after the end of the Cold War, Russia and America are collaborating to explore space. Humanity needs to be, and is becoming, far more internationalist in outlook and action.

However there needs to be more of a concerted effort to gain easier, regular, and high volume access to space. After the retirement of the American Space Shuttle in 2011, Soyuz is the only means of access to the International Space Station. Better technology is needed today.

There is good information available on www.astronautix.com, with European Space Agency features about manned space flight on:

click here for the Science Photo Library

Thanks to the images made publicly available by the S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, (1) by the Science Photo Library, (2) and by NASA, (3) the pictures tell the story...

Soyuz Expedition 27 crew members get ready to launch

Soyuz Expedition 27 crew members from the top, Russian Flight Engineer Andrey Borisenko, NASA Flight Engineer Ron Garan, and Soyuz Commander Alexander Samokutyaev get ready to launch

Soyuz TMA-21 rocket ready for launch

Soyuz TMA-21 rocket ready for launch

Soyuz TMA-21 rocket lifts off, 5 April 2011

Soyuz TMA-21 rocket lifts off, 5 April 2011

Yuri Gagarin before the launch

Yuri Gagarin before the launch of Vostok 1 in April 1961, 50 years earlier, and in the middle of the Cold War

Vostok 1 elevating for launch

Vostok 1 elevating for launch

Yuri Gagarin, ready for launch

Vostok 1 lifts off, 12 April 1961

Vostok 1 lifts off, 12 April 1961

Yuri Gagarin in 1950 as a teenager

Yuri Gagarin, born in 1934, photographed in 1950 as a teenager. He graduated from the Saratov Aeroclub Aerotechnical School in 1955, and Voroshilov First Chkalovsk Military Fighter School in 1957. Gagarin served in fighter units with the Northern Fleet.

Yuri Gagarin at the Saratov Aeroclub Aerotechnical School

Having shown ability in flying Yak and MiG aircraft he was selected in 1959 to train among the first Soviet cosmonauts.

Yuri Gagarin was selected in 1959 to train among the first Soviet cosmonauts

Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space on 12 April 1961 in the Vostok rocket, which predates the Soyuz series. The Soyuz was designed in 1962 for rendezvous and docking operations in near earth orbit, leading to piloted circumlunar flight. Versions remained in production. The first flight of the American Space Shuttle Columbia was on 12 April 1981. Mission STS-1 opened the "Shuttle Era", which lasted for 30 years. After retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, Soyuz is currently the only means of access to the International Space Station

Yuri Gagarin dared to risk his life to be the first human to fly in space, as Soviet Russia pushed forward in the "Space Race". He had orbited 200 miles from Earth. Gagarin saw two dawns in the same day. He saw the sun and the stars bright in the sky. He ate and drank from food tubes, and could float, being weightless

Looking out of Vostok 1 he said; 'I see Earth... It is so beautiful'

The 2.3m diameter Vostok 1 descent module

His one orbit mission in Vostok 1 lasted 1 hour and 48 minutes, and at 23,000 feet he successfully ejected from his spacecraft

The 2.3m diameter Vostok 1 descent module

The spherical one man Vostok descent module was 2.3 metres in diameter, and was not designed to return with Gagarin inside

Sputnik, launched 4 October 1957

Sputnik translates into English as "Satellite". On 4 October 1957 imagination became reality with the launch of Sputnik. Humanity entered the Space Age, and the "Space Race" meant that both Soviet Russia and the United States of America pushed their Cold War prestige by setting new records in space exploration.

Yuri Gagarin and Sputnik designer Sergei Korolyov in Moscow, 15 September 1961

Yuri Gagarin and Sputnik designer Sergei Pavlovich Korolev in Moscow 15 September 1961. Korolev died in 1966

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova flew in June 1963

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova flew in June 1963 to be the first woman in space. From 1962 Gagarin had supervised the training of five women cosmonauts, including Tereshkova

Yuri Gagarin with his wife Valentina and daughter Galya

Yuri Gagarin with his wife Valentina Goryacheva and daughter Galya enjoying a holiday in the Crimea in the 1960s.

Yuri Gagarin and his daughter Yelena

The couple had another, older daughter, Yelena. He was Hero of the Soviet Union Number 11,175, and internationally popular

Yuri Gagarin lived a hero

Yuri Gagarin lived a hero, and died when his MiG aircraft crashed on 27 March 1968 while requalifying for flight status. He had to requalify. He had been grounded in 1967 when the nervous administration considered he was too important to risk losing in a flight accident. Gagarin never saw Neil Armstrong's first walk on the Moon, during the Apollo 11 mission on 20 July 1969.

Gagarin would have appreciated the human achievement

Yuri Gagarin remains a hero

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