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.


A Wandering Pom said...

Hi there, Austin

Many thanks for marking this anniversary. I agree with you (and Google!) on its significance: I think that if the human race survives the next 50-100 years and establishes a permanent presence in space, Gagarin and Armstrong will come to be regarded in much the same way as we currently think of Columbus.

Take care


david said...

im always intrigued by the vast differences in soviet/u.s. space race technology... we spent millions of dollars to invent a pen that could write in zero gravity... the soviets used a pencil... the apollo program was magnificent - its ability to function and survive catastrophic failure in space says it all, best in safety and performance.... the saturn V rocket assembly alone was so triumphant looking.. and those water landings in the pacific were always sooo cool.. but it was retired after the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) flew in july 1975.. It was the last apollo mission, the first joint u.s./soviet space flight, and the last manned u.s. space mission until the first space shuttle flight in april 1981.. yet to this day, the russian federation still launches the same basic space capsule they did during the soviet era... talk about longevity and reliability... and we all know how costly, safe and reliable the space shuttle is/was....

~ just sayin....

Austin said...

Capsules are great for getting people into space - but they're horribly for anything else. Soyuz has almost no cargo space; compare that to the shuttle, which can cary 12 metric tonnes to LEO; the rocket the Soviets used to get Mir put together couldn't even carry that, and the shuttle also had passengers. The ISS wouldn't have been possible without the shuttle system.

It's simply a fact that the more complex a system is, the more likely it is to have issues. You also have to consider that technology has advanced tremendously since the 70's, but the shuttles were never substantially upgraded.

A big example of the difference in tech is that the Ares V - the new planned Saturn-type rocket - could lift 94 metric tonnes in a single pass - double that of the space shuttle. Of course, it was deemed unfeasible and scrapped, but dayumn that's a lot of lift.

So, while there's something to be said for "KISS", I'd just as soon pursue new technologies and opportunities, even if it means more risks. Then again, I'm a neophile.