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April 12th, International Day of Human Space Flight

The Jurij Gagarin's memorable undertaking

Declared by UNESCO, the International Day of Human Space Flight on April 12th is a memorable date in the human and astronautics' history.

"Pojechali!" (Let's go!): this was the long-awaited signal for take-off that was pronounced by Jurij Gagarin at 9:07 (Moscow time) on April 12th, 1961. Only the dog "Laika", placed aboard the Soviet space capsule Sputnik-2 on November 3th 1957, and the chimpanzee Ham, protagonist of the Mercury-Redstone 2 mission on January 31st 1961, had passed the entrance of the Earth's atmosphere before the Soviet pilot.

The 108-minute flight brought the Soviet aviator to a full elliptical orbit around the Earth, giving way to a new era for the conquest of space.

Taken from the historic Bayqoñyr cosmodrome, the Vostok-1 spacecraft reached a maximum altitude of 302 km and a minimum of 175 km.

"From up here the Earth is beautiful, without borders or boundaries", these were the words of Jurij Alekseevič Gagarin at the sight of the Earth from space. Controlled from the ground but maneuverable in case of need even by the young cosmonaut, the spacecraft returned to Earth at 9:55 and then landed in a field in the south Engels, a town in southwestern Russia, farther west from the place planned for the return.

Having become a national hero, an idol for the Russians and the absolute protagonist of one of the most amazing feats of humanity, Jurij Gagarin continued studying space, planning new missions and completing the first Sojuz spacecraft. Without ever abandoning his aviator past, the man continued to cultivate his passion for airplanes, which had led him to join the aviation school when he was very young.

Just piloting a small fighter plane, a MiG-15UTI, the historic aviator who first managed to dominate the space lost his life when he was 34 years old. On the death of Gagarin various theories have been formulated. Most likely the pilot lost control of his vehicle after entering in the wake of a formation of three Sukhoi Su-15 fighters. Maybe the incident in which he and the copilot lost their lives was caused by the attempt to avoid the collision with a fighter that should not have been on that route.

From Nepal to the United States, up to Sudan, in Europe and in Antarctica there are many events organized for today by the American scientific research bases Palmer Station and South Pole. The Planetaries of Lecco and Cagliari and astronomical museums all over the world are also working towards the event.

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© World Aeronautical Press Agency Srl