Almaty, Kazakhstan, April 9 2021:Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space and the 60th anniversary of the event is now being honoured by Russia from where a three-man crew will blast off to the International Space Station on Friday in a capsule. The spacecraft that the trio take off in at 0742 GMT has been named after the legendary cosmonaut and Gagarin’s portrait has been added to its exterior.
To commemorate the event, reminders of Gagarin’s achievement were everywhere at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei prepared for their half-year mission aboard the orbital lab.
The anniversary of Gagarin’s historic flight on April 12, 1961 is celebrated every year in Russia as Cosmonautics Day. Gagarin’s mission was a propaganda coup for the Soviet Union and a huge win in the space race with the West, which became one of the Cold War’s most exciting side shows.
Since then though the Russian space program has suffered multiple setbacks from industry corruption scandals to an aborted take-off scuppering a manned mission in 2018. And now that reusable rockets from Elon Musk’s Space X can deliver NASA astronauts to the ISS from American soil, Roscosmos is having a difficult time.
Roscosmos officials still talk up new ventures, including bringing back samples from Venus and creating a rocket capable of making 100 round trips to space. Yet President Vladimir Putin prioritizes increased military spending and space budgets are dwindling.
Exploring outer space has proven a rare area of cooperation between Russia and the West amid rising geopolitical tensions.
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