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12 Apr, 2008 13:15

Russia celebrates Cosmonauts

Forty seven years after Yury Gagarin first blast into space, Russians are celebrating the legacy of all their cosmonauts. On April 12, 1961, Gagarin’s Vostok 1 roared into orbit. A ceremony to honour the first space flight has been held in Moscow’s Kremli

It was never Yury Gagarin's intention to become a symbol and inspiration for his generation and those to come.

“The first time Gagarin’s name was heard in the U.S. and the rest of the world – and the Soviet Union – was during the flight, at the height of the space race. And this sense of competition made many people in the West disappointed that this victory belonged to the Soviet Union,” said James Oberg, U.S. space journalist and historian.

Since the exploration of the Moon and a number of missions to Mars, flights to space have become regular and the interest has started to wane.

The veteran cosmonaut Aleksandr Laveykin says the lack of interest is a shame.

“Young people used to dream of a career of an astronaut. Now their feet are more on the ground. Very few know what the astronauts will be doing there in space. Very little information, so logically the interest dies down,” said Aleksandr Laveykin, Russian cosmonaut.

But some in Russia still strive to ignite a passion for space.

This year Moscow hosts the 7th Russian Cosmo Fest – a rock music festival uniting all those who think Russia should be proud of its space heritage.

Cosmo Fest organiser Aleksandr Marusev believes space ideology is an essential feature of Russia.

“Europeans are actively trying to improve ecology, Americans – to promote digital technologies and computers. And space is Russia's breakthrough, with its help Russia should find its place in the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Gagarin deed has been remembered in Scotland. A memorial stone commemorating his pioneering space flight has been unveiled on the Orkney island, country's far northern tip.