All I have done and lived for has been done and lived for for this moment.
— Yuri Gagarin
Fifty years ago (on April 12, 1961) when my father was eight and mother only five years of age, the Soviet Union “conquered” the space, having a hero complete the first-ever human spaceflight. You’ve probably already taken note of it from Google’s today’s doodle (see below), or maybe even seen the news about the “First Orbit” real time recreation of Gagarin’s first spaceflight, and being Russian, born in the USSR, I can’t help but devote my today’s blog post to Soviet and Russian cosmonauts, and what we can learn from them.
I have a number of Russian channels through a satellite on my TV in the U.S., and over the past few days they have been featuring numerous shows on Gagarin‘s first orbit flight, Titov‘s first full day in space, Leonov‘s first exit of an orbiting spacecraft, Tereshkova‘s flight, and much more on Soviet and Russian cosmonauts. Apparently, “the formerly top secret Soviet papers” have been “released … to coincide with the anniversary” [source], and many amazing facts have become public. The risks the first people in space took, their courage, determination, and devotedness to the task are nothing short of admiration. What really puts priorities into perspective is taking a close look at the challenges they faced back then, comparing them to what stresses us out here and now. I salute these heroes today, and thank them for teaching me an important lesson — a lesson in diligent work, self-sacrifice, patience, and courage.