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04/12/2021 – Ephemeris – Human space flight began 60 years ago today

April 12, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, April 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 21 minutes, setting at 8:24, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:01. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 9:05 this evening.

60 years ago today Yuri Gagarin a Soviet Air Force pilot became the first cosmonaut and first person to orbit the Earth in his Vostok-1 spacecraft. The event has been celebrated around the world since 2001 as Yuri’s Night. Gagarin was strictly a passenger on his flight, but was given a key to override the automated functions of the spacecraft to take over manually if needed. He ejected from the capsule as planned to land by parachute. His flight came three weeks before the United States and NASA launched Alan Shepard on his sub-orbital flight in his Freedom 7 Mercury Capsule on May 5th 1961. It wasn’t until February 20th the next year that John Glenn made three orbits of the Earth in his Friendship 7 Capsule to match Gagarin’s feat.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Yuri Gagarin in space helmet
Yuri Gagarin in his space suit and helmet.
Vostok-1 rocket at launch
Vostok-1 rocket at launch carrying Yuri Gagarin on his single orbit of the Earth. The current Soyuz rocket is a direct descendant of the R-7 used for Yuri Gagarin’s flight and the Soviet’s first ICBM.
Vostok capsule upopn landing
The Vostok capsule upon landing. Gagarin was ejected from the capsule at 7 kilometers altitude to land with his own parachute rather than trying to survive a rough hard earth landing in the capsule.
Yuri's Night logo
Yuri’s Night logo