Episode 36: October 11th 2010 – UK Space Policy and Yuri Gagarin’s visit to Manchester and London in July 1961

Next year April 12th  2011 marks the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s,  mankind’s,  first steps  into space. It was a product of the accumulated technology of many countries over many years but particularly driven by the the political landscape resulting from the 2nd world war. Since then successful robotic missions have visited the planets, asteroids and comets. 24 men have gone to the moon and a dozen have even walked on its surface.

Subsequent achievements have fallen short of the expectations raised in the wake of Gagarin’s flight. Gagarin himself  spoke openly about his desire to go to the moon and Mars. That sounds like a pipe dream now but back in 1961, he was absolutely serious and realistic.

So what happened? Had the space race been won when Neil and Buzz landed on the Moon? Had the motivation borne out of political rivalries of the cold war finally been exhausted? Perhaps, the problems closer at home of poverty, population growth, environmental concerns  raced to the top of the political agenda and forced  governments into a pragmatic reconsideration on how they spent their cash?

Big questions. Too big for this episode where Dr Chris Welch from Kingston University provides a brief outline of the current status of the Space policy here in the UK.   Dr Welch  also happens to be the chair of the of the recently launched YuriGagarin50 group which has amongst its aims:

Stimulate celebration and recognition of the global significance of Gagarin and his flight – ‘the first person in space, the first person to see the Earth as a planet’.

After his flight Yuri Gagarin embarked on a world tour which included a 4 day visit to the UK which surprisingly included a visit to Manchester on 12th July 1961. By chance, Gagarin’s first job was as a moulder in a foundry in Moscow.   He came to the UK and Manchester at the invitation of the Manchester based Amalgamated Union of Foundry Workers. I will be producing another episode  focusing on Gagarin’s UK visit next year. Did you see Gagarin in July 1961? Do you know someone who did? Share your memories. Drop me a note at info@astrotalkuk.org.

With many months to go to next year’s 50th anniversary, there are several events already being planned  to celebrate mankind’s first steps in to space. Keep an eye on the events calendar at  www.yurigagarin50.org

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The quote for this episode is from the Soviet government in 1961 following Gagarin’s success in Vostok 1. Perhaps they were deliberately winding up the Americans but there is something warm and reassuring to see a couple of familiar words in the quote  “all mankind” that are on the plaque left on the Moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts. A 1961 official Soviet Government and Communist Party announcement said.

We regard these victories in the conquest of outer space not only as the achievement of our people but as an achievement of all mankind

A video version of this podcast is available on Vimeo here.

Comments

  1. Donald McCormick says:

    I had emigrated to Canada, with my wife and two children, in 1956/7, and we made our first trip back to visit relatives and friends in 1961. On the way back, we had a few days in London and visited the historic Tower of London. We were very surprised to see Yuri Gagarin there, not having read any newspapers.

  2. Janice Buckley says:

    I remember seeing Yuri Gagarin, from the steps of our offices on Princess Street, with my friend Dorothy England, it was lovely to see him, I can still see that wonderful smile, I still haven`t forgotten him.

  3. Raymond C Sampson says:

    I can remember the bbc news playing the voice of Yuri Garagin from space.
    He has all ways been my hero. I went to the city of Saratov in 2006 where yuri studied.and then on to Yuri Landing spot. about 60km from Saratov. I am planing to return in april 2011 for his 50th year in space.
    I was born in london in the war 1942.

  4. Thanks for an informative article look forward to more as the 50th anniversary approaches.

  5. Joyce Branagh says:

    I live in Manchester and stumbled across the fact that Yuri visited the city back in 1961. I’m now writing a short play about a young girl who saw him that day, and the inspiration she gained from his visit. The play is due to be produced as a radio play to commemorate the 50th anniversary next year. It would be lovely to work with you. Is this possible?

  6. I can remember the bbc news playing the voice of Yuri Garagin from space. He has all ways been my hero. I went to the city of Saratov in 2006 where yuri studied.and then on to Yuri Landing spot. about 60km from Saratov. I am planing to return in april 2011 for his 50th year in space. I was born in london in the war 1942.

  7. Edmond says:

    I lived in London and went to St. Aloysius College Highgate. We had a school trip to the Royal Horticultural Hall to see Yuri Gagarin. I even think I took a photograph – no idea where that is now.

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