TODAY, the world marks the 60th anniversary of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin in a historical event that kicked off the era of human spaceflight that continues to this day.
The world’s first spaceship, Vostok, with a man on board, was launched into orbit from the Soviet Union on 12 April 1961. The pilot space-navigator of the satellite-spaceship Vostok was a citizen of the USSR, Flight Major Yuri Gagarin.
To the world of 1961, this was a thrilling announcement, as on April 12, at 9:07 a.m. Moscow time, the Vostok 1 spacecraft blasted off from the Soviets’ launch site to the unfamiliar outer space.
This historic 108-minute flight, orbiting once around Earth, made Gagarin the first human in space, and an international hero; at the age of only 27 years old, opening a new chapter of human endeavor in outer space. From the very beginning of the Space Age, the United Nations (UN) recognized that outer space added a new dimension to humanity’s existence.
Commemorating the International Day of Human Space Flight, on its website UN stated that it is striving continuously to utilize the unique benefits of outer space for the betterment of all humankind.
UN mentioned the amazing history of human presence in outer space and the remarkable achievements since the first human spaceflight, “In particular Valentina Tereshkova becoming the first woman to orbit the Earth on 16 June 1963, Neil Armstrong becoming the first human to set foot upon the surface of the Moon on 20 July 1969, and the docking of the Apollo and Soyuz space crafts on 17 July 1975, being the first international human mission in space, and recall that for the past decade humanity has maintained a multinational permanent human presence in outer space aboard the International Space Station.”
In recognizing the common interest of humankind in outer space and seeking to answer questions on how outer space can help benefit the people of Earth, the UN General Assembly adopted its first resolution related to outer space, resolution 1348 (XIII) entitled “Question of the Peaceful Use of Outer Space”.
Meanwhile on 10th October 1967, the ‘Magna Carta of Space’, also known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies entered into force. All this came to existence due to the hope brought by as Gagarin set the ignition that launched the rocket, being significant action as it marked 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 1961 in the Soviet Union, left the citizens of the Soviet Union, Yuri Gagarin, and the world flabbergasted, as it marked advancement and a new era to mankind. In its resolution the General Assembly on 7 April 2011, declared 12 April as the ‘International Day of Human Space Flight’ to celebrate each year at the international level the beginning of the space era for mankind.
This reaffirms the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples, as well as ensuring the realization of their aspiration to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes, states UN.
It is a date of science’s triumph, and 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 the cosmonautics, those interested in prospects of space programs 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 testpiloting a MiG15, a jet fighter aircraft.
Russian- Tanzanian Cultural Centre (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 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, he said as he motivated Tanzania to step up and take charge as the country’s position already provides an upper hand.
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. 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, equated the geographical advantage to a gold mine; arguing 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.
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, he noted.
“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 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, he pointed out.