Cosmonautics Day is observed annually on April 12 in Russia and other former Soviet Union nations. This holiday commemorates the first crewed space flight on April 12, 1961, with Russian Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on board. Thus, the Soviet Union became the first country to send a crewed flight to space, and Gagarin became the first human to orbit the planet. This elevated him to the status of a national hero as his country awarded him the title of ‘Hero of the Soviet Union.’ On April 9, 1962, the Soviet Union declared April 12 as Cosmonautics Day.
History of Cosmonautics Day
On April 12, 1961, the Soviet Union made history by being the first country to send a crewed flight to space. Aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft, cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first man to orbit the planet, spending 108 minutes in outer space. This achievement opened up a new era in space exploration and was seen as a triumph for the Soviet space program. The only words attributed to Gagarin during the flight were: “Flight is proceeding normally; I am well.” After his historic flight, Gagarin was exalted to the status of a celebrity and hero.
Major newspapers worldwide published his biography and other details of his flight. After being escorted to the Kremlin in a motorcade of high-ranking officials, he was awarded the title of ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ by Nikita Khrushchev, the highest Soviet honor that could be achieved. Other awards presented to him included the ‘Order of Lenin,’ ‘Merited Master of Sports of the Soviet Union,’ ‘Hero of Socialist Labor in Czechoslovakia,’ the ‘Konstantin Tsiolkovsky Gold Medal,’ and ‘Pilot-Cosmonaut of the U.S.S.R.’ On April 9, 1962, Cosmonautics Day was established by the Soviet Union. After becoming a deputy to the Soviet Union in 1962, he was promoted to the rank of colonel of the Soviet Armed Forces on November 6, 1963. On April 7, 2011, to mark the 50th anniversary of the monumental flight, the United Nations General Assembly declared April 12 as the International Day of Human Space Flight. Also known as Yuri’s Night, the World Space Party has been celebrated worldwide on April 12 since 2001.
On Cosmonautics Day in Russia, participants convene at Gagarin’s statue in the city of Korolyov. From there, they visit his grave, located in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. After that, they move to Cosmonauts Alley and, finally, the parade concludes with a visit to the Novodevichy Cemetery.
Cosmonautics Day timeline
Gagarin is born in the village of Klushino, Russia.
Russia becomes the first country to send a crewed flight to space and Gagarin becomes the first human to orbit the planet.
The Soviet Union establishes Cosmonautics Day.
Gagarin is promoted to the rank of colonel of the Soviet Armed Forces.
Gagarin loses his life as a result of a plane crash on March 27.
The World Space Party, also known as Yuri’s Night, is established.
The United Nations General Assembly declares April 12 as the International Day of Human Space Flight.
Cosmonautics Day FAQs
Who was the first woman in space?
Launched on a solo mission aboard the Vostok 6, Russian Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963.
Who is the oldest astronaut alive?
At 94 years old, Frank Boorman is the oldest former American astronaut alive.
Who landed first on the moon?
Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, launched by the American Apollo Lunar Module Eagle, became the first to land on the moon on July 20, 1969.
How to Observe Cosmonautics Day
Have you ever wondered what the stars look like up close? Go stargazing when night comes around and use a telescope to get a closer look.
The world we live in is vast and mysterious. There are many little-known facts about our planet and the universe at large. Celebrate this monumental holiday by educating yourself about the globe and how it works so seamlessly and flawlessly.
Share your knowledge with others
Post about this one-of-a-kind holiday on all your socials. Let others be informed about the commemoration of this special occasion in the history of our planet.
5 Tributes Paid To Yuri Gagarin
The training center
The Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City was named after Gagarin on April 30, 1968.
The Air Force Academy
The Russian Air Force Academy was renamed the Gagarin Air Force Academy in 1968.
The Kontinental Hockey League named their championship trophy the Gagarin Cup.
A series of coins
In Russia, a series of coins bearing Gagarin’s likeness was issued in 2001.
The town of Gzhatsk
The town of Gzhatsk in Smolensk Oblast was renamed Gagarin after his death in 1968.
Why Cosmonautics Day is Important
He made his country proud
Gagarin was able to complete a highly delicate mission without losing his cool. He handled the pressure of being the only man on a space flight for 108 minutes. As a result, he made his country proud.
He was modest
Gagarin was famous for being a modest man. This rare quality in a man so successful distinguished him from others.
He was dedicated
Even after winning multiple medals and being deemed a national hero, Gagarin refused to rest on his oars. After his flight, he began serving as a deputy to the Soviet of the Union, became deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Facility, continued to work as a pilot, and even graduated cum laude from the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy. Gagarin continued to work hard despite all his achievements.
Cosmonautics Day dates