MOSCOW, April 12 (RIA Novosti) – Russia celebrates Cosmonautics Day every April 12. This holiday was instituted by the April 9, 1962 executive order of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet (Parliament) in honor of the first manned space flight.
On April 12, 1961, a launch vehicle orbited the Vostok spacecraft with the first cosmonaut, Soviet citizen Yuri Gagarin, on board.
After circling the Earth once, the spacecraft’s descent module landed in the USSR. The cosmonaut ejected at an altitude of several kilometers above the ground and parachuted into a field at 10.55 am Moscow Time. He landed on the bank of the Volga River near the village of Smelovka in the Ternovsky District of the Saratov Region.
The flight lasted 108 minutes, and the launch of the world’s first manned spacecraft was supervised by Sergei Korolev, Anatoly Kirillov and Leonid Voskresensky.
This history-making event paved the way for space exploration for the benefit of the entire humankind. New opportunities in space were created in 2000 when the first crew boarded the International Space Station (ISS), a joint space project involving 15 countries.
The station is tracked 24 hours a day from the Russian Federal Space Agency’s Mission Control Center in Korolev near Moscow and NASA's Mission Control Center at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Since the start of its operation, the ISS has gradually turned into a huge laboratory in near-Earth space.
In the years following Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight, over 500 people from almost 40 countries have flown in space.
In 1962, Pilot-Cosmonaut of the USSR Gherman Titov, Yuri Gagarin’s backup man during the first space flight, voiced an initiative to institute Cosmonautics Day in the USSR. He also suggested calling on the UN, on behalf of the Soviet Government, to institute World Cosmonautics Day.
In November 1968, delegates of the 61st General Conference of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI - World Air Sports Federation) decided to celebrate World Day of Aviation and Astronautics every April 12. The celebration of this day was confirmed by the April 30, 1969 decision of the FAI Council, made at the recommendation of the Air Sports Federation of the USSR.
In the Russian Federation, Cosmonautics Day was instituted as a memorable date by Article 1.1 of the March 13, 1995 Federal Law On the Days of Military Glory and Memorable Dates in Russia.
On Cosmonautics Day, all employees of the Russian aerospace industry, including designers, scientists, engineers, workers and pilot-cosmonauts, space equipment testers, mission control center personnel, experts of the command and measuring complex, those receiving, processing and storing incoming spacecraft and orbital station data, are congratulated and honored.
On April 7, 2011, acting on the initiative of Russia, the UN General Assembly proclaimed April 12 International Day of Human Space Flight. This decision coincided with the 50th anniversary of the first step in space exploration, namely, the trailblazing flight of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
This resolution was co-authored by over 60 UN member-countries.
The UN General Assembly voiced its deep conviction regarding the common interest of humankind in promoting the peaceful exploration and use of space that belongs to the human race, expanding the scale of this activity and exerting consistent efforts to allow all countries to use the related benefits.
Since 2001, many countries have held a Yuri’s Night event in honor of Yuri Gagarin. This event is sponsored by the Space Generation Advisory Council, the official consultant of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. Yuri’s Night is dedicated to the following two events: the first manned space flight (April 12, 1961, USSR) and the first manned space flight in line with NASA’s Space Shuttle program (April 12, 1981).
In 2011, the year of the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight, Yuri’s Night involved over 100,000 people in 75 countries.