A Message on Cosmonautics Day

ImageThe International Day of Human Space Flight commemorates the beginning of the era of exploration for humans in space. On April 12, 1961, a young 27-year-old cosmonaut by the name of Yuri Gagarin (pictured left), boarded the Vostok 1 spacecraft in the Baikonur Cosmodrome and became the first human being launched into outer space. He made one orbit around the Earth in over 108 minutes. The last flight of the Vostok spacecraft, known as Vostok 6, took place on June 16, 1963, and carried the first woman into space, Valentina Tereshkova.Gagarin received many medals and titles in Russia, including Hero of the Soviet Union, the nation's highest honor. He died in 1968.

FIU mathematics faculty Ada Monserrat, recently visited the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow, Russia and viewed a historic collection of rocketry and space technology dedicated to the achievements of space exploration. The museum contains a wide variety of Soviet and Russian space-related exhibits and models which explore the history of flight, astronomy, space exploration, space technology and space in the arts. Large sculptures of Isaac Newton, Nicolaus Copernicus and other contributors to mathematics and science line the entry hall, as well as a model of the Sputnik satellite. Among the many items in the collection are the Vostok and Soyuz descent capsules, as well as other rockets and missiles.

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Pictured left to right: Sputnik, RD-214 Liquid Rocket Engine, Soyuz descent capsule

Monserrat was drawn to a section devoted to the collaboration of the United States and Russia in the Apollo-Soyuz Project, the world's first joint space flight in July 1975 where the docking of two spacecrafts, as well as the first international handshake, took place.

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Pictured left to right: Apollo-Soyuz Crew and crew manuals in both Russian and English

Above all, there is a tribute to Apollo 11, the first manned mission to the moon with Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins on July 20, 1969. On display is the spacesuit worn by Michael Collins, the command module pilot.

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Pictured left to right: Apollo 11 Crew and Spacesuit worn by Michael Collins

"As I marvel at the impressive monument, a 351-foot tall titanium structure of a rocket with its exhaust plume reaching out to the heavens, I can't help but ponder how conflict engulfed the world during this period in time yet we found a way to come together peacefully and conquer the unheard of, outer space. On this day, let's celebrate our common humanity; our differences could never measure up to the milestones that bring us together. The famed physicist, Stephen Hawking, once told me ‘Focus on the things you can do in life rather than what you can't.’ Hawking may soon board the Virgin Galactic spacecraft for his own journey into space. Our lives are but a mere second here on earth, what we choose to do while we are here should be a stepping stone for those to come. With that thought in mind, history can one day repeat itself with another ‘giant leap for mankind’ as we conquer 'the unheard of' once again.” ~ Ada Monserrat

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Pictured left to right: Monument to the Conquerors of Space and Ada Monserrat, Red Sqaure, Moscow