The very first manned space flight took place on 12th April 1961. Of course, it would be more than eight years before American astronaut Neil Armstrong would make history and be the first man to walk on the moon. But it was Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who was the first person ever to circle the earth and view our planet from space. Inside the Vostok 1 spacecraft, it took one hour and forty eight minutes to cement his place in the history books.
Russians have marked Cosmonautics Day from the get go, holding the first commemorative day on 9th April 1962. In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared the 12th April the International Day of Human Space Flight and now the date is a special one for anyone interested in space.
The celebrations begin in the city of Korolyov, not far from the capital, at the statue of Yuri Gagarin, who was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union by the then leader Nikita Khrushchev, the country’s highest honour. From there it’s on to Red Square in Moscow where participants visit the cosmonaut’s grave in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. They continue on to Cosmonauts Alley and the Monument to the Conquerors of Space before finishing up at the Novodevichy Cemetery.
If you’re inspired to travel to Russia to learn more about the space programme, then no itinerary would be complete without a trip to Star City. Located just outside Moscow, you’ll find there the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre. It’s an important centre for research and development as well as training, and makes for a fascinating visit.
Perhaps the most popular of the activities at the centre is the chance to take a Zero Gravity flight. Conditions of weightlessness on board the specially designed IL-76 MDK flying laboratory are as close to real space flight conditions as you can get. It’s achieved by the plane flying in a parabolic pattern known as a Kepler curve. The plane ascends to an altitude of about 20000 feet and then curves downward. Passengers feel weightless at the upper part of the pattern for a little under 30 seconds. That sensation is repeated up to fifteen times during the one and a half hour flight, making this the ultimate rollercoaster ride in the sky.
Also at Star City you’ll find simulators of the Soyuz spacecraft, Russian Segment ISS and the Mir space station. Imagine what fun you can have taking selfies to show your friends. There’s also a rotating centrifuge and a neutral buoyancy laboratory, both used to help accustom cosmonauts to the conditions they’ll experience in space. These are sometimes closed for maintenance so call ahead to ensure they’ll be open during your visit.
It really is an out of this world experience and one we’d be delighted to arrange for you during your holiday.