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108 minutes that stunned the world!
Published on 12 Apr. 2011 9:58 PM IST
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Russia on Tuesday marked a half century since Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, the greatest victory of Soviet science which expanded human horizons and is still remembered by Russians as their finest hour.
At 0907 Moscow time on April 12, 1961 Gagarin uttered the famous words “Let’s Go” as the Vostok rocket, with him squeezed into a tiny capsule at the top, blasted off from the south of the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.
After a voyage lasting just 108 minutes that granted the 27-year-old carpenter’s son historical immortality, Gagarin ejected from his capsule and parachuted down into a field in the Saratov region of central Russia.
From that moment on, his life, and the course of modern space exploration, would never be the same again.
“This was one of the greatest events of the 20th century,” said the head of Russia’s space agency Anatoly Perminov. “His flight opened a new page in the development of humankind.”
The Soviet Union scored its greatest propaganda victory over the United States, spurring its Cold War foe to eventually retake the lead in the space race by putting men on the moon in 1969.
Russia’s modern day rulers are using the anniversary to remind Russians of its past achievements and President Dmitry Medvedev is due to make a visit to mission control outside Moscow and talk with current astronauts.
Later in the day, he gave a keynote speech on space exploration in the Kremlin that is expected to give an impulse for the future of the Russian space programme 50 years on.

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