Gagarin's widow fetes space flight with US astronauts

Apr 12, 2011

Legendary astronauts, including a veteran of the US Apollo programme and the first man to walk in space Tuesday joined the widow of Yuri Gagarin in the Kremlin to remember his space flight 50 years ago.

President Dmitry Medvedev hosted the reception and pinned medals on cosmonauts and astronauts from Europe, Japan and the United States, almost all of whom gave their brief speeches in fluent Russian.

In cheerful mood, he confessed that he had wanted to be a cosmonaut himself, but that it "did not work out."

Watching in the first row was Gagarin's widow, Valentina Gagarina, who rarely appears in public. A slight dark haired woman in glasses, she did not speak at the ceremony.

Sitting behind were her two daughters, Galina and Yelena. Gagarin died in an air crash that has never been properly explained in 1968.

Russian cosmonauts present included Alexei Leonov, 76, the first man to make a , and Valentina Tereshkova, 74, the first woman in space, dressed elegantly in a purple suit.

Speaking Russian, Thomas Stafford, who commanded the Apollo 10 lunar reconnaissance mission in 1969, paid tribute to Gagarin and said that without his pioneering flight, his own achievements would not have been possible.

"This is a good day because today opened the way to space. Mr President, I am sure that I would not have flown to the moon without Yuri Alexeyevich's flight," said Stafford, 80.

"Yury Alexeyevich was a hero of the Soviet Union and of the whole world."

In an emotional speech, Leonov, who made the first space walk in 1965, praised the Soyuz-Apollo programme for promoting cooperation between former Cold War enemies.

"In 50 years we have gone from such a confrontation to such flights. Humanity has got more intelligent, it has to be said," he said.

He pointed out that Gagarin was a "boy" at 27, compared to the astronauts who fly to space today, many of whom are now in their 40s and 50s.

US astronaut Scott Kelly, 47, who returned to Earth last month after commanding an expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), also spoke at the ceremony and thanked Medvedev on behalf of NASA and his US colleagues.

Kelly's twin brother Mark is due to fly out to the ISS on the last voyage of the US shuttle on April 26. His wife, Democratic representative Gabrielle Giffords, is recovering from head injuries after she was shot in January.

Explore further: NASA picks Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

ISS crews honor Yuri Gagarin

Apr 12, 2007

The International Space Station crews sent their best wishes to Moscow Thursday in honor of the anniversary of the pioneering space journey of Yuri Gagarin.

Russian craft brings astronauts back to Earth

Mar 16, 2011

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying a US and two Russians astronauts Wednesday parachuted amid hailing winds into a snow-swept Kazakh steppe after a five-month mission to the International Space Station.

Russia celebrates Gagarin's conquest of space

Apr 12, 2011

Russia on Tuesday marked a half century since Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, the greatest victory of Soviet science which expanded human horizons and still remembered by Russians as their finest ...

Recommended for you

NASA's Maven spacecraft reaches Mars this weekend

1 minute ago

Mars, get ready for another visitor or two. This weekend, NASA's Maven spacecraft will reach the red planet following a 10-month journey spanning 442 million miles (711 million kilometers).

Video: MAVEN set to slide into orbit around Mars

7 hours ago

A NASA mission to Mars led by the University of Colorado Boulder is set to slide into orbit around the red planet this week after a 10-month, 442-million mile chase through the inner solar system. 

Dawn operating normally after safe mode triggered

7 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The Dawn spacecraft has resumed normal ion thrusting after the thrusting unexpectedly stopped and the spacecraft entered safe mode on September 11. That anomaly occurred shortly before a planned ...

Repaired Opportunity rover readies for 'Marathon Valley'

7 hours ago

With a newly cleared memory, it's time for Opportunity to resume the next stage of its long, long Martian drive. The next major goal for the long-lived rover is to go to Marathon Valley, a spot that (in images ...

Image: Rainbow aurora captured from space station

10 hours ago

Auroras occur when particle radiation from the Sun hits Earth's upper atmosphere, making it glow in a greenish blue light. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst has one of our planet's best views of this phenomenon, ...

User comments : 0