The moment the ignition was set to launch the rocket was significant as it was the beginning of the new unknown.
Five minutes into the flight, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to look back on planet earth from space.
Being the only and first human being to see the curvature of the earth, he had a feel of a new experience.
And nine minutes on the flight all sensations of speed stopped and the effect of gravity was lost.
“Everything is going well and the feeling of weightlessness is good. I feel safe.” Gagarin was recorded saying during the first minutes after the launch.
As the Russian triumph was witnessed that year, there was still fear in it, because if the rocket flew too steep it would have burnt and too shallow, it would move into another orbit never to return.
He was able to withstand forces up to eight times the pull of gravity during his descent as he re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, managing to maintain consciousness.
In a flight that lasted 108 minutes, Gagarian had travelled 25000 miles, setting record of being the first human to orbit the earth.
The event that took place on April 12, 1961 in the Soviet Union, where citizens of the Soviet Union, first lieutenant Yuri Gagarin (27), orbited the Earth onboard “Vostok”, marked advancement and a new era to mankind that left people flabbergasted.
Nowadays it is a special date, a day of science triumph, and a day of all the people involved in aerospace industry, a day of those who remember the history of conquering the near- Earth space, those proud for achievements of our cosmonautics, those interested in prospects of space programmes development.
Following the flight, Gagarin became a cultural hero in the Soviet Union, although on March 27, 1968, Gagarin was killed (along with another pilot) while test-piloting an MiG15, a jet fighter aircraft.
Tanzania may be far from launching spacecraft but one thing the country should understand is that as it is a gold mine when it comes to minerals and natural resources; it is also a gold mine when it comes to its geographical location and positioning.
This was discovered recently when the Russian- Tanzanian Cultural Centre (RTCC) decided to commemorate the Yuri Gagarin day through a photo exhibition at the Department of Creative Arts, University of Dar es Salaam.
RTCC Director Rifat Pateeva explained that on every April 12, the entire world celebrates the Aviation and Cosmonautics Day, which honors the first ever flight of human to space.
The 60th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight will be in 2021. The space community also commemorates Gagarin’s achievement every year with Yuri’s Night, a celebration that takes place on his launch date of April 12.
Yuri’s Night was founded in 2001 and attracts thousands of celebrants each year. “Being a child of ten years during that time, as I was playing, I remember my mother called me and said, my son today a Russian has flown to outer space, he is the first human being to do so,” he recalled adding that it is a memory that has stuck in his head and never to be forgotten.
During that time it was like a miracle, the flight opened the doors to more magical moments, and researches to be conducted.
The Soviet Union set the record and many developed nations followed after that, the exhibition prepared by RTCC acts like a motivator for Tanzania to step up and take charge as the country’s position already provides an upper hand.
Astronomical experts described Tanzania’s geographical positioning as the most suitable in support of space exploration activities, the opportunity that remains unexploited.
Astronomy and Space Science Association of Tanzania Chairman Dr Noorali Jiwaji, speaking at the launch of ‘International Aviation and Cosmonautics Day’ in Dar es Salaam recently, equated the geographical advantage to a gold mine.
The chairman argued that the country’s position qualifies Tanzania for an installation of a space Centre.
“The country’s coast location alone places it at the right position for spaceship launching. The ocean’s coast being to the East is an advantage as space infrastructures need locations, which are close to the Eastern coasts,” Dr Jiwaji said at the University of Dar es Salaam’s (UDSM) Department of Creative Arts.
Open University of Tanzania’s (OUT) don commented, “The world rotates to the east and things like rockets—when they are launched—need to match the earth’s speed and direction and Tanzania is suitably placed to support such activities.”
Other astronomical advantage of Tanzania’s location includes being at the equator where over 90 percent of the sky can be viewed.
“If there was the station in Tanzania, people could conduct researches as a lot of things could be viewed through the sky at the same time.
It is advantageous to be at the equator where one can view the entire sky from the north to south,” he explained, adding: “From the sun rise to sun set, all can be observed at once from the equator.” For nation, the position is more than the geographical location, it’s a resource that is not yet tapped, he asserted.
Being at the longitude is also advantageous because within the area there are only telescopes placed in the far north and others in the far south, hence there are stations for astronomy to be placed in the middle and Tanzania is highly qualified to grab the opportunity, he said.
There is a project dubbed ‘ Africa Telescope’ that deals in Radio astronomy which is looking for a place to station their telescope in Africa.
“W ith the location our country is situated we have a geographical advantage on this as it needs high land and where the sky is seen longer.”
Another advantage is having ‘dark sky’ as of recent most of rural area’s sky is lit due to human activities, he commented.
“The sky is lit by all the lights in the settlements, but having a dark sky is a treasure as it allows one to get to witness activities happening in the skies. In the villages more stars can be seen than in the rural areas because our activities have chased the dark skies away.”
There is a need to bring awareness that dark skies are to be preserved. “even as we install electricity in the villages this knowledge should be given to people that even when installing lights they should not face up, rather down as that is where the activities need it,” he advised.
There are a lot of challenges, including educational, when it comes to astronomy in Tanzania.
From primary to university levels, the curriculum is shallow on astronomy training. UDSM Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic, Professor Bonaventure Rutinwa thanked the Russian- Tanzanian Cultural Centre (RTCC) for choosing the University for Celebration.
“Choosing the university to showcase the outstanding achievements of an astronaut, Yuri Gagarin, is not by accident but a demonstration of a long historical cooperation between Tanzania and Russia in education sector,” he elaborated.
However, the most significant part of the celebration lies in the lessons that Tanzanians especially the youth, and in this context our students, can borrow from Gagarin. The lessons include heroism and patriotism.
Indeed, it is an auspicious event in the history of our College for we get to open our doors to what we call public humanities, commented Principal of the College of Humanities Dr Rose Upor.
Public humanities is the work of engaging diverse publics in reflecting on heritage, traditions, and history, and the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of civic and cultural life, she explained.
The exhibitions ended yesterday at the UDSM library. “I hope with the awareness brought by the exhibition, it will be an experience enough to engage the university community in understanding the Russian culture as well as the aviation and cosmonautic strides that Russia has made.”