MOSCOW, April 12. /TASS/. Humankind will always remember Wednesday April 12, 1961, as one of the brightest dates in its history. A mere sixteen years after the end of World War II, which left huge areas in the European part of the USSR fully devastated, the Soviet Union shook the world by sending the first cosmonaut into space.
Major Yuri Gagarin, a 27-year-old officer of the Soviet Air Force became the trailblazer of manned flights.
Sergei Korolyov, the chief designer of Soviet launch vehicles and spacecraft wrote later on Gagarin had shown what man was capable of and that was the most audacious venture.
"He opened the road to an unknown world for the people and he imparted to them faith in their own abilities, stimulating them towards more confident and resolute steps," Korolyov wrote. "That was a promethean deed."
A TASS flash story on Gagarin’s revolution around the Earth, which lasted 108 minutes, turned into the most frequently quoted news story on that day. It inspired people regardless of where the report reached them or on what side of the Iron Curtain they lived.
"A simple Soviet guy," as Gagarin was often called then, gave a special gift to the people with his frank smile and enchanting openness right at the time when the Cold War was reaching its climax (the Caribbean crisis that broke out already next year - TASS).
His Peace Mission that began shortly after the flight became almost equally legendary. It took him to more than thirty countries on different continents, putting him in front of country presidents and royal dignitaries and, most importantly, bringing him into contact with thousands upon thousands of rank-and-file people who literally carried him in their arms.
In 2011, during celebrations of the jubilee since Gagarin’s flight, the UN General Assembly proclaimed April 12 to be the International Day of Human Space Flight. The Soviet Union started marking Cosmonautics Day on April 12 as of 1962.
The International Day of Human Space Flight is observed to mark the beginning of space era for the humankind for the purposes of steady development and affluence of the states and nations, as well as for ensuring the exclusively peaceful use of outer space.
Yuri Gagarin’s daughter Yelena, who is currently Director General of the Moscow Kremlin Museums, told TASS the memories of her father evoke warm feelings in people regardless of what generation they belong to.
"The name Gagarin sounds like a code word, like a key to communications with foreign partners," she said. "It creates an incomparable festive atmosphere and boosts morale."
That is how it really is - Gagarin is an asset of heritage for the entire world.
President Vladimir Putin pointed out the unifying character of cooperation in space: "Space is a sphere of joint activity that makes it possible to forget all the complexities of international relations and to build up our contacts in the most promising fields of high technologies with due regard for the future of our countries and the future of mankind.".