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This Week in Astronomy History: April 12-18

16 Apr 2021, 00:28 UTC
This Week in Astronomy History: April 12-18
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Photo: View of the damaged Apollo 13 Service Module after separation from the main craft | NASA
April 12, 1961: Yuri Gagarin becomes first human being in space
Yuri Gagarin at a press conference in Finland | Finnish Museum of Photography
Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut who became the first human to travel into space on April 12, 1961. This achievement by the Soviets was a major milestone in the Space Race between the US and the USSR—at the point in time, only animals had successfully been sent into space. Gagarin completed one orbit around the Earth aboard the Vostok 1 space capsule before safely returning to Earth, 1 hour and 48 minutes after the capsule was launched.
After his successful mission, Gagarin became a national hero in the USSR, earning several medals and titles. The Russian town of Gzhatsk was renamed Gagarin in his honor after his death in 1968.
The Space Shuttle Columbia’s first launch on 04/12/1981 | NASA

April 12, 1981: First launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia
The Space Shuttle Columbia was the first of a series of launches in NASA’s Space Transportation System (STS-1) program, as well as the first fully-functional, ...

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