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Cosmonautics Day

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Apr 13, 2007 6:51 pm
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Originally established in the USSR on April 9, 1962, Cosmonautics Day is a Russian holiday now observed every April 12. It is celebrated in honor of the first manned space flight on that day in 1961 by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who made a one hour, forty-eight minute complete orbit around Earth aboard the Vostok 1.

As a result of this huge milestone for the Soviet space program, Gagarin became a national and global hero. Following the flight, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev awarded him with the highest Soviet honor: the title of “Hero of the Soviet Union.”

In modern times, the commemoration of Cosmonautics Day begins near Gagarin’s statue in Korolyov, a city that is a major crux of space exploration. Processions then stream to the Red Square’s Kremlin Wall Necropolis to visit Gagarin’s grave. The parades continue on to Cosmonauts Alley, a pedestrian street honoring many of the Soviet space program’s great names, which leads up to the Monument of the Conquerors of Space. Here many high-ranking officials from the modern space program come out to honor the event by placing wreaths at the plaques and memorials of the space exploration heroes and scientists.

First created in 2001 to increase public interest in space exploration, a new addition to the Cosmonautics Day celebrations has sprung up around the world. Celebrated in locations ranging from Antarctica to Los Angeles to the International Space Station, “Yuri’s Night” is an international celebration held on April 12 every year to commemorate Gagarin’s historical flight in 1961 as well as the first Space Shuttle launch on April 12, 1981.

Proton’s launch site, the Baikonur Cosmodrome is also the place from which the historical Vostok-1 launch took place. The Gagarin Museum at the Cosmodrome is home to many great artifacts from the event itself and the life of Gagarin. It is a popular stop for launch campaign visitors who wish to learn more about this great space hero. Be sure to visit our photo gallery for pictures from Baikonur and the museum.

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