Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Google Doodle, 50th Anniversary of The First Human Space Flight

The Google Doodle Masthead today (ooopppps, yesterday, little late in posting this) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Yuri’ Gagarin’s historic flight into space and orbit around the Earth on April 12, 1961.  It was another shock to many Americans, first Sputnik, and now Yuri Gagarin.  Not only did the Soviet Union beat us in putting a man into space, but they had him orbit the Earth.  Alan Shepard’s flight a month later was suborbital arc.  He merely dipped his toes into the edge of space for several minutes during his 15 minute flight.  Yuri Gagarin was in space for 1 hour and forty eight minutes.  Gagarin’s flight was grand technical achievement by comparison and it rankled many Americans at the time—including some of us in kid world. 

I was 12 at the time, and sure, I was pissed that the Soviet Union beat us into space, but still, it was pretty cool to think that mankind had left the planet and circled it once.  Well, some of the alpha male older kids in the neighborhood decided that this was not a cool thing.  They became something of junior ministers of propaganda.  First, the Soviets lied about the whole thing and there was no flight.  Yuri was no hero, they forced him in the craft at gunpoint and hand cuffed him to the seat.  Well wait, I thought that the flight was a lie and didn’t happen, if so, why would Gagarin be forced into the space capsule at gunpoint.  It is dangerous to point out errors in logic to bullies.  They like to talk not think.  While they can’t control what you think, they can still beat the hell out of you and control what you say.  After being shoved around a few times and screamed at, that Gagarin wasn’t a hero, he was a red commie, a stooge of his communist masters, I quickly realized the error in my logic and agreed that the flight didn’t happen. 

Well the rest of the world regarded Gagarin as a hero, and he played the part magnificently.  It was hard to dislike him even if he was a commie.  He had a winning smile. He didn’t wear ill fitting suits, and didn’t bang his shoe on the UN podium.  He was one the few things out of the Soviet Union that did not seem threatening.  Hating Yuri, would be like hating Bill Mazeroski, and let’s face it, Yuri had just did the coolest thing since The Maz won us the World Series in the bottom of the ninth the previous fall.  I don’t give a damn where you call home, orbiting the Earth in 1961 was really cool.  Maybe even cooler than beating the Yankees, but I kept those thoughts to myself.

The cool thing about Google Doodles is that you learn something, but sometimes what you learn may be sad.  So it is for Yuri Gagarin, he died in a routine training flight in a Mig 15 in 1968.  I didn’t know that.  What was ironic about his death, was that the Soviets, not wanting to lose their smiling hero to an accident, never let Gagarin fly another space mission.   

You can read about Yuri Gagarin in Wikipedia:

Wikipedia, Yuri Gagarin 

Google's Doodle had a minor bit of animation. When you placed the cursor anywhere on the Doodle, the rocket would blast off.  I captured it with a series of screen prints. 

There is a world wide celebration of the first manned flight called Yuri's Night. You can read about it in Wikipedia.

Wikipedia, Yuri's Night

Here is a cool video of the members of Expedition 27 on the International Space Station celebrating Yuri's night.  Check out the effects of zero gravity on Cady Coleman's hair, and how the three men in the back depart at the end of the video.

YouTube, Yuri's Night 2011 International Space Station Crew: 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight

After his flight Yuri made this observation,

"Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty - not destroy it!"

Eighteen months after Yuri Gagarin's historic flight, the world endured the Cuban Missile Crisis.  We almost blew it, and it makes Yuri's words very poingnant.  The space programs of the 60's were often criticized as nothing but macho competitions wasting the national treasure for the sake of propaganda. Perhaps, but in light of the horrific danger in which the world was poised, I think Yuri Garagin's smile was a gift from God.  It signaled to those of us who chose to notice that they were not simply commies and reds, they are human beings--just like us.  And if you could tune down the xenophobia, you had to admit, back in 1961, it was a pretty cool thing having a human being orbit the planet.

EDIT 4-13-11:  I didn't notice yesterday, but the choice of colors of the Earth, second O in Google, would have caused a stir back in 1961.  A "red state" in 1961 was an entirely different concept that a red state today.    

Image Credits:

Google Doodle:

Yuri in space suit:

Smiling Yuri:  Wikipedia, Yuri Gagarin

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