April 11, 2011

Yuri Gagarin, Still A Hero 50 Years Later

"The feeling of weightlessness was somewhat unfamiliar compared with Earth conditions.  Here, you feel as if you were hanging in a horizontal position in straps.  You feel as if you are suspending."

Those words were written by Yuri Gagarin as he reminisced from the perspective of being in space in a post-flight report after his historical voyage.

On April 12 in 1961, Russian pilot Gagarin became the first human to leave this blue planet and embark on a journey to make his name legendary throughout history books.

The hour and 48 minutes in space he spent aboard a Vostok 1 capsule became a cornerstone in space exploration. 

It was 50 years ago on April 12 that man was first able to set eyes on Earth from a third-person perspective.  Battling courageously through the fear of the unknown, Gagarin was able to become the first of the 549 people to glance at our sphere in a way that pictures can only moderately reflect.

Though news reports during this Cold War era wanted to reflect more on Russia's triumph, documents after the event proved reentry was not as smooth as initially reported. 

Gagarin actually ejected from Vostok 1, 4.3 miles from Earth's surface, as opposed to landing smoothly like initial reports suggested.

According to the book "The Air Up There: More Great Quotations on Flight" by Dave English, Yuri's first conversation after floating back to Earth on a parachute was with a woman and her daughter.

The woman asked Gagarin: "Can it be that you have come from outer space?" The book reported that Gagarin responded with:  "As a matter of fact, I have!"

Since that historical day 50 years ago: man has walked on the moon, built the powerful Hubble Telescope, and joined together to create the International Space Station to use as an orbiting laboratory.  There have also been many other heroes who have fallen in the wake of our ambition to satisfy the hunger of man to know more about what is beyond this Blue Planet.

But, in the moment of reflecting on our triumphs and tragedies space exploration has bestowed upon us, let the day of April 12th be served up as the day that man first voyaged off this planet to experience 108 minutes of life without Newton's Law.