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12 Apr, 2007 13:41

Russia marks Cosmonautics Day

Russia marks Cosmonautics Day

46 years ago Yury Gagarin spent one hour and 48 minutes in space, orbited the Earth, and safely returned.  The Soviet cosmonaut was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union Medal and his name became synonymous with that of Columbus.

For Russia, Cosmonautics Day has always been special. It is the day to remember the country's glorious past and the best achievements of its space industry.   

Yury Gagarin’s journey decided the country’s history for decades to come. It was an instant success for the Soviet space programme that inspired many other endeavours, becoming the first of many firsts.

Just a few days ago, a new spacecraft was launched into space. And on board is Russia’s cosmonaut number 100, Oleg Kotov.  

These days, the cosmonaut’s family is glued to television. For the 41-year-old doctor, it is the first time in orbit – the dream that took 13 years to accomplish. 

“Our daughter was just 3 months old when Oleg told me he was going to leave the family. I was shocked but he explained that he was to be trained as a cosmonaut,” Svetlana Kotova, his wife, recalls. 

For years, Oleg was a backup crewmember and saw his colleagues come and go into space. But he never gave up, nor did his family. They say only now they realise what the Cosmonautics Day is all about.                                    

“This has always been is a family holiday for us, but this time it is special. It concerns us directly,” Svetlana says.

Up in the orbit, the International Space Station crew is also planning to have celebration.  

“We are going to a very nice have dinner. I am not quite sure about the menu, but it was prepared by a famous French chef French chef Alain Ducasse,” Charles Simonyi, the fifth space tourist, said. 

All but one member of the current ISS crew were delivered there by Russian-made spacecraft. After the suspension of the U.S. shuttle flights, Russian rockets are the only link to the station.

Their designs are a Soviet legacy, but the Russian space programme does not end there. 

Six years from now, Russia plans to launch its own shuttle programme. The Clipper spacecraft will be capable of carrying up to six people, as well as twelve tonnes of cargo. But its main feature is that it will decrease the effects of the powerful G-force that passengers experience during landing. 

“These forces, or G-loads, on Clipper’s passengers will be almost equal to the forces during a rapid take off of a regular jet. So you will not need to undergo medical tests to qualify for such a space trip,” Nikolay Sevastyanov, the President and Designer General of the S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, explained. 

The Clipper’s launch is expected to make space tourism more accessible, helping hundreds, maybe even thousands, to follow the path of Yury Gagarin.