Ambassador Andrei Kelin’s address on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the first human spaceflight
60 years ago Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly into space. We are rightfully proud of the fact that this scientific and technological breakthrough has been accomplished by our country. Yuri Gagarin made an invaluable contribution to the development of space exploration as well as international humanitarian cooperation. The spaceflight turned him into a true hero not only at home but also around the world. This is why the UN announced 12 April to be the International Day of Human Spaceflight.
The first British astronaut Helen Sharman, who visited the Mir Space Station in 1991, recently said: “Wherever we go in space, and whatever we do there, we stand on the shoulders of Yuri Gagarin”.
Just as anywhere else in the world, memory of Gagarin lives on in Britain, where he came on a visit in July 1961. During his trip (by the way, he was invited by the Foundry Workers' Union in Manchester) Yuri Gagarin met Her Majesty The Queen and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. There were numerous other invitations, both private and from local organisations, as well.
There are quite a few memorable places in the UK devoted to the heroic deed of Yuri Gagarin. We know about the Statue of Yuri Gagarin in front of the entrance to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the memorable plaque in Manchester Airport, the bronze bust of Yuri Gagarin in London’s Science Museum. Several streets around the UK also bare the name of the cosmonaut.
To this day, Britain shows great interest in space exploration and cooperation with our country in this field: in 2011, we had a cross Russian-British Year of Space; in 2015, an exhibition on the Soviet space program “Cosmonauts: Birth of Space Age” was organised at the Science Museum; in 2017, an exposition on the life and achievements of the first woman in space – Valentina Tereshkova – was opened. This year, the Science Museum continues the good tradition and will hold a joint conference with the Russian Museum of Cosmonautics, dedicated to Yuri Gagarin’s visit to the UK. Other commemorative events marking the 60th anniversary of first human spaceflight will also take place.
The development of Russia’s space potential is one of our country’s priorities. Russia advocates for the peaceful use of outer space, strengthening of mechanisms of fair and mutually beneficial international cooperation, as well as prevention of an arms race in space.
This year, by coincidence, Cosmonautics Day has coincided with another step in lifting of lockdown restrictions in the UK, which marks the long-awaited return to normal life.
On this occasion, I would like to wish everyone good health and success of cosmic proportions!
12 April 2021