first orbit film
Science, Space and Astronomy

50 Years of Human Spaceflight

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s venture into the great unknown. Gagarin became the first human to travel to space, and the first to orbit the Earth, in a Vostok 3KA-3 on April 12, 1961. His flight lasted only 108 minutes, but in that short amount of time Gagarin ushered in a new era of exploration – one that would eventually lead us to the first moon landing, priceless information on the Earth and its history, the discovery of over 500 planets outside our solar system, and so much more. Curious about what Gagarin might have seen on that first human spaceflight? Check out First Orbit, a film jointly made by the Expedition 26/27 crew of the International Space Station (ISS) and the European Space Agency (ESA). View the video below.

Using information about Gagarin’s flight, the ISS matched the orbital path of the Vostok 3KA-3 as closely as possible to give us the first and most accurate depiction of the view out Gagarin’s window. The main filmakers were astronaut Paolo Nespoli and documentary film maker Christopher Riley. For more information, view their website.

Today also marks the 30th anniversary of the first launch of the space shuttle program. Columbia (STS-1) was the inaugural shuttle for the program, lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center at 7:00:03 AM EST with Commander John W. Young and Pilot Robert Crippen. The mission served not only as a test for the space shuttle itself, but also for the solid rocket boosters, as this was the first time solid-fuel rockets had been used. The space shuttle program has lasted for 30 years, but in June will be decommissioned with the final flight of Atlantis beginning June 28, 2011. For more information on the space shuttle program, head over to

Here’s to another 50 years of human spaceflight!


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