Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Human Adventure

Men first landed on the Moon just a few months before I was born, so I'm too young to remember the Apollo program in its glory days, though I do have vivid memories of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission when Thomas Stafford and Alexei Leonov exchange a handshake in space. I also remember Skylab, including its destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere in 1979. And of course I remember even more clearly the test launches of the space shuttle Enterprise (which thrilled the Star Trek fan in me) and the early launches of the Columbia.

But all these events, impressive though they are, pale in comparison to another event that occurred before I was born, whose 50th anniversary we commemorate today: Yuri Gagarin's 1961 journey aboard Vostok that made him the first human being to enter space and return. Gagarin's flight is one of those genuinely world-changing events whose impact cannot easily be summed up. While spaceflight is neither as commonplace nor as exciting as my youthful self had hoped it would be by now, that has no bearing on the significance of today's anniversary. I still hold hope that, if not in my own lifetime, perhaps in my children's the promise of Gagarin's flight might begin to be fulfilled.


  1. Well said. I really appreciate this sentiment.

  2. I was only two when Gagarin went up, but I remember much of what came afterward, including that thrilling moment when we landed on the Moon. But to think that Gagarin climbed atop a giant firecracker with a terrible safety record and rode it to the heavens... That kind of bravery deserves eternal respect.

  3. The Days of Future Past. It's like we are living in a J.G. Ballard story.

    And news on the fleet:


    Now, will Atlantis or Endeavor end up somewhere nearby :)

    And I disagree with retiring the fleet. They should be kept in orbit and used to begin regular trips to the moon. They are perfect for the job and they provide the best escape vehicle in case of a catastrophic event on the ISS.

    Just my 2...

  4. Pardon: Endeavour

    (Must finish coffee before posting)

  5. I remember the summer Skylab reentered. I was at summer camp and all the counselors were wearing hard-hats with bulls-eyes painted on top.

    But, back on the topic of Gagarin, I agree it's hard to find much that compares to his flight, though maybe the first moon landing could be ranked up there with it.

  6. Don't tell anyone but I remember watching Armstrong and Aldren walk on the moon on television. I believe I was in college at the time. It seemed to be like a science fiction fantasy, which made me proud and excited.

    Yuri Gagarin, however, paved the way for this incredible event. So, Happy Anniversay Garin.

    PS My following is getting mixed up with my husband's following. Great blog.

  7. Aldren, Armstrong and Collins landed on the moon two weeks after I was born. I've always been fascinated by space flight and have always wanted to go into space, although having been born premature my constitution is somewhat lacking.

    I too followed the shuttle flights with glee, watching the Enterprise take off and land and imagining that someday soon we would see Star Trek-like starships -- hasn't happened yet.

  8. Moon landing was bigger for me (I remember my cousins saying "there's men on the moon!" and I went out to look; Captain Kangaroo also did a week or two of shows explaining to kindergartners like me what was happening.) Yurin is technically important, but frankly, Laika's got him beat.

  9. Long live comrade Gagarine!

    Many, many places, streets, stadiums and buidldings gets his name in France.

  10. What? No love for Joe Kittenger? Guy parachuted from the very edge of space (out of a high altitude balloon no less) with just a flight suit and oxygen tank long before the Ruskies got there :-O