• Remi Renaudie

9.07am. Launching of the Rocket.

9.07 am. Engines start up. Dull cracking of firing. Raging noise making the earth shakes. A rocket flies away, the heart of the only passenger goes wild. His pulse goes from 64 to 157 beats per minute but the man shouts happily Поехали ! “Here we go!”

The acceleration’s power crushes the man’s ribs curled up in his capsule. The radio link is disturbed, the command center, alarmed by the situation, asks the man how he feels. “Fine and you?” answers the man with a calm voice.

This man’s name is Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin, and here he is on the April 12, 1961’s morning, leaving the ground to meet the sky and its stars in the longest and most perilous journey. A journey for eternity.

Gagarin’s crazy legend is launched as soon as his feet touches earth. An announcement is made on national radio that a Soviet has just returned safe from the first space flight in history. Yuri Gagarin, a middle-class and founder trainee, became instantly an USSR’s icon.

During the years following his return to earth, he was torn between the desire of the Soviet government to overprotect him, knowing his importance for the party’s image he represented on his long international tours and Gagarin’s desire to fly again. Brilliantly minded, he followed an engineer’s formation with the other cosmonauts of the first manned flight program. In Sergueï Korolev’s ideal world, rockets will be in the future built by those who know them best: the cosmonauts. While learning how to build rockets, Gagarin resumed his training in the star city and flew on board of MiG aircraft. Yuri’s return to the heart of the space race will end into two dramas: he will assist from the command centre to the tragic accident of Komarov while being his double, and will die himself in the crash of his MiG 15-UTI two-seater which also led to the death of Colonel Vladimir Serioguine, with whom he was sharing cockpit.

Yuri Gagarin still is today the flag bearer of the Soviet space odyssey, of a country’s history that, since Constantine Tsiolkovski, has always had its eyes turned to the stars. Moscow, its capital, is full of references to the space conquest: statues, monuments and museums in honor of its heroes all over the city.

Hence a specific tourism in full expansion. Admire the past as you gather at the tombs of Gagarin, Korolev and Komarov at the Kremlin necropolis, imagine yourself in Yuri’s Vostok at the Cosmonautic Memorial Museum. A new tourism that is also dedicated for catching History on the move in the star city, a few kilometers north of Moscow, where the Gagarin training center opens its doors on rare occasions for a total immersion in the steps of the first cosmonauts’ team and a meeting with their 21st century counterparts. Then have the chance to follow them a little closer to the stars in Baikonur to watch the launch of a Soyuz rocket.

Back to square one then:

9.07 am. Engines start up. Dull cracking of firing. Raging noise making the earth shakes. A rocket flies away ; that’s your heart going wild.

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