Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Here we go!"

Vostok I

Today is the 46th anniversary of the flight of Vostok I. Its sole passenger was Yuri Gagarin, and Vostok I, a "tin can sitting on top of a bomb", would make him famous. On April 12, 1961, Gagarin became the first person in space.

Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

In my youth, I was fascinated by outer space, and voraciously devoured books on space flight and astronomy. I read pretty advanced and detailed non-fiction on the subject. In fact, I remember when I was nine, I participated in my local public library's summer reading club, and that year's theme was outer space (timed for the arrival of Haley's Comet). I read several thick non-fiction books on the subjects of astronomy and space travel (one I recall was a detailed chronological narrative of the American space program up to that point), but the librarian would only accept fiction. Then the fiction I chose apparently wasn't advanced enough for her tastes, but I suppose my prepubescent self couldn't make her understand that I cared very little for "stories" back then and preferred history and science (I wouldn't start reading fiction with any sort of devotion until I was twelve). With all the stifling conditions she placed on me I still wonder to this day why I joined her profession.

Although my childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut, or astronomer, or aeronautical engineer have long since faded, I still have a soft spot for space travel and the men and women who have struggled and continue to struggle to increase the range of humanity's grasp just a little bit more. I continue to mourn the death of manned space exploration and become upset when governments disrespect the memories of our space-faring brothers and sisters.

Here we go, Comrade Cosmonaut.