We should remember the first milestone of human space flight

11Apr 2020
The Guardian
We should remember the first milestone of human space flight

The International Day of Human Space Flight is the annual celebration, held on April 12, of the anniversary of the first human space flight by Yuri Gagarin. It was proclaimed at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly on April 7, 2011, a few days before the 50th-

-anniversary of the flight.

Yuri Gagarin crewed the Vostok 1 space flight in 1961, making one orbit around the Earth over 108 minutes in the Vostok 3KA spacecraft launched by Vostok-K launch vehicle.

In the Soviet Union, April 12 was commemorated as Cosmonautics Day since 1963, and is still observed in Russia and some former Soviet states. Yuri's Night, also known as "World Space Party" is an international observance initiated in the United States in 2001, on the 40th anniversary of Gagarin's flight.

April 12 was also the date of the first Space Shuttle launch, STS-1 of Columbia in 1981, which is also commemorated on this date.

Human spaceflight also referred to as manned spaceflight is space travel with a crew or passengers aboard the spacecraft. Spacecraft carrying people may be operated directly, by human crew, or it may be either remotely operated from ground stations on Earth or be autonomous, able to carry out a specific mission with no human involvement.

The first human in space was Yuri Gagarin, who flew the Vostok 1 spacecraft, launched by the Soviet Union on 12 April 1961 as part of the Vostok programme. Humans have flown to the Moon nine times from 1968 to 1972 in the United States Apollo programme, and have been continuously present in space for 19 years and 151 days on the International Space Station. All human spaceflight has so far been human-piloted, with the first autonomous human-carrying spacecraft under design starting in 2015.

Russia and China have human spaceflight capability with the Soyuz programme and Shenzhou programme. In the United States, SpaceShipTwo reached the edge of space in 2018; this was the first crewed spaceflight from the US since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011. Currently, all expeditions to the International Space Station use Soyuz vehicles, which remain attached to the station to allow quick return if needed. The United States is developing commercial crew transportation to facilitate domestic access to ISS and low Earth orbit, as well as the Orion vehicle for beyond-low-Earth-orbit applications.

While spaceflight has typically been a government-directed activity, commercial spaceflight has gradually been taking on a greater role. The first private human spaceflight took place on 21 June 2004, when SpaceShipOne conducted a suborbital flight, and a number of non-governmental companies have been working to develop a space tourism industry. NASA has also played a role to stimulate private spaceflight through programs such as Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) and Commercial Crew Development (CCDev). With its 2011 budget proposals released in 2010, the Obama administration moved towards a model where commercial companies would supply NASA with transportation services of both people and cargo transport to low Earth orbit. The vehicles used for these services could then serve both NASA and potential commercial customers. Commercial resupply of ISS began two years after the retirement of the Shuttle, and commercial crew launches could begin by 2020.