Press Release

NASA: 43rd Anniversary of Vostok 1 – 23rd Anniversary of STS-1

By SpaceRef Editor
April 12, 2004
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NASA: 43rd Anniversary of Vostok 1 – 23rd Anniversary of STS-1

Today is a great day in the history of spaceflight,
marking the 43rd anniversary of the first human spaceflight
and the 23rd anniversary of the first flight of the Space
Shuttle. Our Russian partners celebrate this day as
Cosmonautics Day. In keeping with tradition, NASA
Administrator Sean O’Keefe sent congratulations on behalf of
the agency to Russian Federal Space Agency Head Anatolii

On April 12, 1961, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first
human to travel in space, when he was launched on the
historic “Vostok 1” flight. Since that day, Russia has
celebrated April 12th as Cosmonautics Day.

In his letter of congratulations, Administrator O’Keefe said,
“My warmest congratulations to you and the people of the
Federal Space Agency (FKA) on Cosmonautics Day 2004! The
people of FKA can be justifiably proud of the heritage of
success that we all celebrate on Cosmonautics Day.

“As the world celebrates the 43rd anniversary of the historic
flight of Yuri Gagarin, we are reminded of the tremendous
contributions space exploration has made to humanity. These
contributions are many and varied, ranging from exploits in
human space flight to robotic discoveries across the solar

“Closer to home, exploration has yielded unprecedented
insights into the Earth’s systems from orbiting satellites to
incredible advancements in biological and physical research.
It is no coincidence NASA and FKA have substantial ongoing
cooperation in each of these areas, as our agencies continue
to work closely together to push back the frontiers of space
for the benefit of all.

“I am proud that our courageous spacefarers, such as
astronaut Michael Foale and cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri, who
are on-orbit on the International Space Station, and Gennady
Padalka and Mike Fincke who are in the final stages of
preparation for the next journey of discovery on the Station,
continue to build upon the legacy of Yuri Gagarin and expand
our reach into the unknown.”

The first flight of the Space Shuttle took place on April 12,
1981. The Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-1) blasted off on its
historic mission on the 20th anniversary of Gagarin’s
groundbreaking flight. The Columbia’s 54-hour, 36-orbit
mission tested the vehicle, which has since been used as the
basis of our international human space flight partnerships.
Scientific cooperation with the Soviet Union dates back to
the very beginnings of space flight. The first cooperative
human space flight project between the United States and the
Soviet Union took place in 1975. The Apollo-Soyuz Test
Project was designed to test the compatibility of rendezvous
and docking systems for American and Soviet spacecraft and to
open the way for future joint manned flights.

Since 1993, the U.S. and Russia have worked together on a
number of other space flight projects. The Space Shuttle
began visiting the Russian Mir space station in 1994, and in
1995 Norm Thagard became the first U.S. astronaut to take up
residency on Mir. Seven U.S. astronauts served with their
Russian counterparts aboard the orbiting Mir laboratory from
1995 to 1998. The experience gained from the Mir cooperative
effort, as well as lessons learned, paved the way for the
International Space Station.

In-orbit construction on the Station began in November 1998,
and it has been staffed non-stop with international crews
since November 2000. The first Station crew, made up of U.S.
commander Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and
Sergei Krikalev, was launched on board a Russian Soyuz
spacecraft. The crew returned to Earth on the Space Shuttle
Discovery in March 2001.

Since the Space Shuttle Columbia accident on February 1,
2003, crew exchange and resupply of the Station have depended
on Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles. The cooperation
between the U.S. and Russia has grown into a mutually
supportive effort. With the combined efforts of the other 14
International Space Station partner nations, the unique
orbiting laboratory has become a symbol of peaceful
international cooperation.

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SpaceRef staff editor.