Once around the park

50 years ago today, a man orbited the Earth for 108 minutes. His primary concern, before launch, was making sure he had enough sausage to last him the trip.

The fact that the man was a Russian, and that, at the time, the US and the USSR were engaged in a bitter cold war, has no bearing on the significance of the event. As Michael Collins said of the moon landing some 8 years later, the accomplishment transcends borders and nationalities: "Everywhere we went, instead of saying 'you did it, you Americans did it,' they were saying 'we did it, we, the human race, did it,' and I thought that was a wonderful thing."

Today, space programs are international, with almost all the major players cooperating on a world stage. Even as private space flight begins to take off (pun intended), space travel remains one of the few egalitarian concepts in a world rocked by conflict.

The US has led the world in accomplishments in space since landing on the moon. We should do everything we can to encourage our population and scientists to continue exporing this next great frontier. At the same time, though, we must remember that we weren't the first ones there: we owe much of our drive and inspiration to Yuri.