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‘We stand on the shoulders of Yuri Gagarin’: UK astronaut hails cosmonaut’s historic role

According to Helen Sharman, wherever people go in space, their achievements are based on what Yuri Gagarin accomplished on April 12, 1961

LONDON, April 9. /TASS/. Technology has advanced exponentially over the past 60 years, but whatever part of the Universe people will travel to, their achievements will be based on what Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) accomplished on April 12, 1961, Helen Sharman, who was the first British citizen to go into space in 1991, told TASS.

"Yuri Gagarin's spaceflight was an amazing achievement, sixty years ago. The world was a very different place in 1961. Technology in particular has advanced so quickly that it is easy to forget what it was like then for the astronauts, engineers and designers," she noted.

"I know that all astronauts will confirm how much of a teamwork venture it is going into space. But Yuri had no idea whether his training would be sufficient or what were the chances of his survival. After all, nobody had felt weightless for anything like the time he was in orbit," Sharman emphasized.

"Sixty years later, astronauts go to space for many months, carrying out all sorts of activities and paving the way for the next big destination for humans - Mars. I hope that interplanetary missions will be collaborative and on behalf of everyone in the world. Wherever we go in space, and whatever we do there, we stand on the shoulders of Yuri Gagarin," she stressed.

Until 2015, Helen Sharman remained the only British astronaut who travelled into space. Prior to her flight, which she made after responding to a radio announcement about a search for candidates as part of Project Juno, Sharman worked as a food technologist at a confectionery company. She was handpicked for the mission from more than 13,000 applicants and underwent preparatory training in Star City near Moscow, which is home to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. On May 18, 1991, Sharman conducted a spaceflight to the Mir orbital station spending eight days in space. After returning to her native country, Helen remained loyal to her original scientific vocation returning to the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London.

On April 12, the world celebrates Cosmonautics Day. This year, 2021, marks 60 years since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s historic spaceflight. Gagarin who was the first man in space circled the Earth once in his Vostok 1 spacecraft and returned safely, landing in the southeastern part of European Russia.