FACTBOX: Cosmonautics Day

  MOSCOW: Russia celebrates April 12 as Cosmonautics Day, established under a decree by the USSR Supreme Soviet (the Soviet Union’s national...


MOSCOW: Russia celebrates April 12 as Cosmonautics Day, established under a decree by the USSR Supreme Soviet (the Soviet Union’s national legislature) of April 9, 1962 in honor of the world’s first space flight by a Soviet citizen. The idea of introducing this date to the calendar of the nation’s memorable events was proposed by the Soviet Union’s second cosmonaut to go on a space mission, German Titov.

Also, April 12 is the International Day of Human Space Flight (declared by the UN General Assembly session on April 7, 2011 in honor of the beginning of humanity’s space era).

First crewed space flight

On April 12, 1961 Soviet cosmonaut Yury Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth. His spacecraft Vostok blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome to travel around the globe once. Gagarin successfully landed in Russia’s Saratov Region. His flight lasted 108 minutes. At the moment of blastoff Gagarin dropped a remark that instantly went down in history: "Off we go!" The space flight earned him the title of The Hero of the Soviet Union.

At the end of April 1961 Yury Gagarin began a "world tour of peace." During the next three years he visited about 30 countries, including Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Finland, Britain, Poland, Cuba, Brazil, Canada, Hungary, India, Egypt, Austria, Japan, France, Mexico, East Germany, Sweden and Norway.

After his truly historic accomplishment Gagarin continued to work at the Cosmonauts Training Center. Starting from May 1961 he was the cosmonauts’ training team’s commander and senior instructor. Later, he took the position of deputy chief of the Cosmonauts Training Center’s space flight training program. Gagarin was a standby of his colleague, Vladimir Komarov, who died on April 24, 1967 while returning after a test flight on the Soyuz-1 spacecraft. Gagarin was not destined go to space again. The world’s first cosmonaut died in an air crash while performing a test flight on a MiG-15UTI training fighter jet together with instructor Vladimir Seryogin on March 27, 1968.

Crewed flight statistics and records

A total of 615 men and women from 40 countries (including unofficial astronauts and space tourists), 76 of them women, have made orbital flights since the beginning of the space era. The United States ranks first (364 astronauts), followed by the Soviet Union/Russia (135) and China (20). In addition, 14 representatives of Japan, 12 representatives of Germany (including East Germany), 11 representatives of Canada, 10 representatives of France, 8 representatives of Italy, and 3 representatives of Saudi Arabia have performed orbital flights. There were also 2 representatives of Belgium, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Israel, the Netherlands, the UAE and Sweden, 1 representative each from Afghanistan, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Hungary, Vietnam, Denmark, India, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Korea, Cuba, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Syria, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and South Africa.

Currently, Russia’s Nikolay Chub and Alexander Grebenkin, Americans Matthew Dominick and Jeanette Epps are working at the International Space Station (ISS). China’s Tiangong National Station has a crew of two: Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin.

The longest orbital flight in the history of space exploration - 437 days 17 hours 58 minutes and 17 seconds - was performed by Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov from January 1994 through March 1995 on the Mir station. The holder of the world record for total time spent in space is also a Russian cosmonaut - Oleg Kononenko, who is currently working on the ISS. It is his fifth orbital flight. On February 4, 2024, he broke the previous record (878 days 11 hours 29 minutes and 48 seconds) set in 2015 by Russia’s Gennady Padalka, who also had five space flights. At the end of the year-long mission in September 2024, Oleg Kononenko's total time in space is expected to reach 1,110 days.

The first-ever spacewalk was performed on March 18, 1965, by Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov, who flew on the Voskhod-2 spacecraft together with Pavel Belyayev. Leonov spent 12 minutes and 9 seconds outside the spacecraft (in all, the spacewalk lasted 23 minutes and 41 seconds). The longest stay outside the spacecraft (8 hours and 56 minutes) was performed on March 11, 2001 from the ISS by US astronauts James Voss and Susan Helms. The record holder for the largest number of exits (16) is Russia’s Anatoly Solovyov, each one of them taking place from 1990-1998 when he was on the Mir space station. According to Roscosmos, he spent a total of 78 hours and 46 minutes in open space.

The world's first woman to go into space was Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova: on June 16-19, 1963, she flew the Vostok-6 spacecraft (for 2 days 22 hours 50 minutes). Tereshkova is also the only woman to have made a solo orbital flight. The longest flight among women (328 days 13 hours 58 minutes and 37 seconds) was carried out by NASA astronaut Christina Koch who stayed on the ISS from March 2019 to February 2020. American astronaut Peggy Whitson spent a record 675 days 3 hours 50 minutes and 13 seconds in space over four flights.

Svetlana Savitskaya, of the Soviet Union, was the first woman to make a spacewalk on July 25, 1984 from the Salyut-7 station together with Vladimir Dzhanibekov (3 hours and 33 minutes). The longest spacewalk was performed by American Susan Helms, and Peggy Whitson holds the record for total time spent in open space over ten spacewalks (60 hours 19 minutes).

Festive events

On Cosmonautics Day all of Russia’s regions hold special festive events, exhibitions, excursions, exhibitions, festivals, concerts, flash-mobs, quests and art contests for children.

-News Feed




Local Glob: FACTBOX: Cosmonautics Day
FACTBOX: Cosmonautics Day
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