APR 11, 2021 9:50 PM PDT

Celebrating the International Day of Human Space Flight

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Earth's first satellite, Sputnik I, was launched into orbit on October 4, 1957. A few years later, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit Earth on April 12, 1961, in the Vostok I spacecraft. Gagarin's flight lasted 108 minutes and started the age of human spaceflight.

Image credit: Public domain / NASA

The first woman to orbit the Earth was Valentina Tereshkova; her mission on the Vostok 6 was on June 16, 1963, and lasted three days, when she was 26 years old. She is still the youngest woman to have flown in space and the only woman to have flown solo.

The first person to set foot on the Moon was Neil Armstrong, who did so on July 20, 1969, during the Apollo 11 mission that lasted from July 16 to July 24, 1969.

When the Apollo and Soyuz spacecrafts docked on July 17, 1975, it was the first time an international mission happened in space.

The space shuttle program in the United States began with the first flight of the space shuttle Columbia, from April 12, 1981, to April 14, 1981. Two crew members were on that mission, which was called STS-1 (Space Transportation System-1). They were mission commander and Astronaut John Young, who had been on four previous spaceflights including a 1972 moonwalk. The other crew member was Navy test pilot Bob Crippen,  who went on to command three more shuttle missions.

International efforts have also maintained the international Space Station for the past decade.

On April 7, 2011, the UN's General Assembly made the designated April 12 as the International Day of Human Space Flight “to celebrate each year at the international level the beginning of the space era for mankind, reaffirming the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples, as well as ensuring the realization of their aspiration to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.”

Sources: NASA, UN

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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