In Moscow, Miles O’Brien Remembers Yuri Gagarin’s Monumental Space Trip

BY Jenny Marder  April 12, 2011 at 8:41 PM EST



Fifty years ago Tuesday, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space. In the moments before launch, he recorded this message:

What can I say to you during these last minutes before the start? All my life now appears as a single beautiful moment to me. All I have done and lived for has been done and lived for this moment.

Then, aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft, he blasted into space, beginning a mission that would last 108 minutes. For 100 minutes, he orbited the earth, then descended back into it. Upon reentry, he ejected from the spacecraft, and landed safely by parachute, just north of the Caspian Sea. His call sign was Kedr, which means Siberian Pine in Russian.

Miles O’Brien spoke with Hari Sreenivasan from Moscow’s Red Square about Gagarin’s gutsy mission, the fate of the retiring NASA space shuttles, the future of space tourism and weightlessness.

Salutes to the historic space launch have taken many forms this week. In Kiev, a massive jigsaw puzzle of Gagarin’s face was assembled on Independence Square. A space documentary debuted on YouTube, scoring millions of hits. The film recreates Gagarin’s flight in real time, blending historic footage with modern shots from his flight path, captured by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the International Space Station.

And 220 miles above earth, while aboard the ISS, NASA astronaut Cady Coleman recorded the first space-earth flute duet with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson: