Fifty-six years ago Yuri Gagarin was the first human to fly in space. That flight was relatively brief, a few orbits for a lone man cramped within a little bubble of light and warmth and life. The flight of Vostok 1 was as much a milestone as the Wright Brothers flight and Lindbergh’s solo crossing of the Atlantic. After Gagarin came more flights, the first spacewalk by Alexei Leonov, and of course the manned landing on the Moon by Armstrong and Aldrin.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke once said that he had shaken hands with the first man to fly in space, the first space-walker, and the first to trod the dusty surface of the Moon. He also strongly believed that in the long run of history it would not matter that two were Russian and one was American. The promise of a human future was bigger and better than mere nationalism. I hope he was right.

And since April 12, 1961 we’ve continued to explore our farther horizons. This has included Vostok and Salyut and Gemini and Apollo and Mir and Shuttle and Progress and Soyuz and, of course, an International Space Station where men and women of many nations work together. Happy Yuri’s Night everyone!

Note on photo: A recent image from Izzy. A Soyuz and Progress freighter docked to the station.

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