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Cosmonautics Day – Celebrating Russian Space Exploration

Cosmonautics Day (also known as Cosmonauts Day) is a Russian holiday celebrated each year on 12 April. Cosmonautics Day was established in 1962 to commemorate the first manned spacecraft to orbit the earth, which took place on 12 April 1961. This remarkable achievement was a milestone in the Soviet space program and made worldwide news.

Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin was the Russian cosmonaut whot manned the spacecraft Vostok 1 as it made one complete orbit around the Earth. The journey lasted 1 hour and 48 minutes and made Yuri Gagarin, not only a Soviet Union national hero, but a hero on a worldwide scale. Major newspapers all over the world ran headline stories with the details of his flight as well as his biography. The success of the space flight project was celebrated with parades in a number of large cities in the USSR. The parade in Moscow was of a scale that had not been seen since the WWII victory parades. Yuri Gagarin was the focus of the parade as he was escorted together with high ranking officials and dignitaries in a long motorcade through the streets of Moscow. Upon reaching the Kremlin, he was awarded the title of Hero of Soviet Union by the Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev – the highest Soviet honor.

Celebrations on Cosmonautics Day start off with a commemoration ceremony in the city of Korolyov, which is widely acknowledged as being the cradle of space exploration. Participants in the ceremony proceed to Red Square for a visit to Yuri Gagarin’s grave which is located in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis alongside the graves of honored local and international Soviet figures. The procession then continues to the pedestrian avenue known as Cosmonauts Alley, which displays busts of people that played a key role in the accomplishments of the Soviet space program including Yuri Gagarin, Sergei Korolyov and Valentina Tereshkova. The avenue leads to the monument “To the Conquerors of Space” which was erected in 1964 to commemorate achievements in Soviet space exploration.

There is no doubt that the pioneering years of space exploration were exciting times and the men and women who dedicated their lives to pushing the frontiers of space exploration deserve to be remembered – which is what Cosmonautics Day in Russia is designed to do.


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