I also remember the Apollo missions with great clarity, watching the footage at school on a grainy black and white TV. I had posters in my bedroom of planets & solar systems. My father showed me the moon, Saturn’s rings & Jupiter’s moons through his work theodolite. So while life on Earth is pretty amazing, the idea of more, beyond, out there above the clouds, has always been there.
5 years before I was born the first man orbited the Earth in space. Tuesday 12th April 2011 was the anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s 1st space flight. He completed an orbit of the earth, successfully ejecting 7k up and parachuting to the ground. Across the world yesterday events were held to celebrate this incredible achievement of a brave man, more at the Yuri’s night website. We helped out a wee bit at one of two Scottish events held at Nairn. This was organised by Elena Reid and the Highland-Russian Connections charity.
Firstly there was an afternoon family event which was well attended and timed perfectly between rain showers. It was wonderful to see children getting involved and taking in what it was all about. There were toy rockets to launch by jumping on an air pump, the stand in I painted & constructed by Anatole. Bagpipes & drums, highland dancers, russian dancers, a display with information, a comic strip looking at the fighter pilot origins of many astronauts & cosmonauts from FutureQuake comic, facepainting, free commemorative magazines, sunshine and a great atmosphere.
Later in the evening there was a showing of a specially created film by Christopher Riley. The film used modern footage of orbiting the earth and recordings of Yuri from that first flight to recreate that journey. for 108 minutes, the same time that the flight took we watched oceans and clouds glide through the spacecraft porthole. lightning storms, sunset and sunrise, the lonely voyage across the earths shadow. Yuri’s excitement was infectious, he talked about the weightlessness, the views, “everything is going well, i feel fine, how are you?” . I found the film awe inspiring and moving, the mans bravery is impossible to comprehend. Some folks in the audience spoiled it a little by talking, I guess the modern concentration span takes views like that for granted, but Yuri was the first person ever to see the earth from above, to imagine that is amazing. It captured the imaginations of generations of writers and film makers. I loved though that this film wasn’t CGI or dramatised. It was simply a beautiful & graceful orbit of our planet.
After the film we had a talk from Paul Jenkins from the Highland Astronomical Society. He explained the importance of animals in space exploration before Yuri’s flight. He also showed some brilliant photos taken by the society from their observatory on Culloden Moor. I still don’t get the thing about the expanding universe, looking back in time, gravity, time bending space, & the big bang? I’ll have to get Prof Brian Cox or Dr who to explain it to me.