The big news today is that it is the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight into space. Gagarin was the first human to ever be shot into orbit. Also, as a side note, he landed back on Earth safely.
It was April 12th, 1961 aboard the Russian flight Vostok 1 that Gagarin made his epic journey. The trip lasted 108 minutes; in order to land Gagarin had to eject from his capsule while still 23,000 feet above the Earth’s surface.
Upon reaching orbit, Gagarin had this to say:
“I feel splendid, very well, very well, very well. Give me some results on the flight!”
Shortly after saying this, Gagarin went out of radio range from mission control, and was on his own for a short while.
How freakin’ scary is that!?
The site on which Gagarin eventually landed is now a monument park. The Vostok 1 capsule is on display in the museum, and a new documentary showing exactly what Gagarin would have seen from his window, shot from the International Space Station, has been released.
And now, Gagarin has received the most magnificent of all accolades: his very own Google Doodle!
So hurray for manned spaceflight, and for the incredible courage of those who were the first to go into space inside a metal tube full of flammable material!
Since June 2010, 6 men have been sealed inside a science experiment. It is called the Mars500 mission, run by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is designed to test the physiological and psychological effects of isolation on a long-term voyage to Mars.
So after an 8 month journey, the crew is preparing for their landing and first “Mars-walk”, which will take place on February 14. After spending 30 days on the “surface”, they will depart the fake Martian terrain (which is actually just a sandy room near their living quarters) and begin the 240 day trip back to Earth.
So it’s actually 520 days that the experiment runs, not 500. But Mars500 just sounds cooler.
The mission, so far, has gone off pretty well. As reported in the BBC,
“So far, I must say we’ve had no major problems,” said Martin Zell, who heads up the Esa scientific programme on the International Space Station (ISS).
“There is permanent monitoring, so we understand their health very well. We have a lot of data now on their mental state and on how their bodies are reacting. That’s important because there is a link between the two,”
The crew seems to be doing well too. They have enough space on board to walk around and receive emails from home. They are even able to check Twitter now and then:
Being in the same small space with the same 6 people for 500 days I can only imagine would be quite taxing. I think the danger of interplanetary spaceflight is secondary to the danger of killing one another, so it is always important to break up the drudgery of every day living with some fun.