It has been 60 years since humans made the first space flight. A new era for humanity began – with the sky no longer the limit.
Sky’s and gazing at the stars have always fascinated human beings. There must be many who have spent their childhood looking at the deep blue skies, glittering stars and wondering and imagining what lays there. The excitement about the possibilities is so much that every child would have dreamt of getting into space, walk and explore. If you ask any child, you would not be surprised to know their career option of being a space scientist or astronomer. The dream came true on 12 April 1961 when Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin made the first flight, orbited Earth on Vostok 1 spacecraft. Yuri’s flight opened up avenues for humanity to explore outer space. The historic event paved the way for many occasions and humankind’s endeavour to understand space and search for life outside the planet.
The UN in 2011 declared 12 April as the International Day of Human Space Flight. This historic event opened the way for space exploration for the benefit of all humanity. The Soviets celebrate the Day as Cosmonautics Day. 12 April also commemorated the launch of Columbia, the first Space Shuttle in 1981. International Day of Human Space Flight is observed to celebrate the beginning of the space era for mankind and ensuring the realisation of their aspiration to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.
International Day of Human Space Flight is a celebration of astronauts’ achievements who are “stretching the boundaries” of where civilisation can go, beyond the stratosphere.UN
In 1957, the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik-I, was launched into outer space, thus opening the way for space exploration. The first spacewalk was by Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov in 1965. Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to orbit the Earth in 1963. Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot upon the moon’s surface on 20 July 1969. Apollo and Soyuz were the first joint US-Russian space flight. This event became the first international human mission in space on 17 July 1975. In November 2000, a new era of international cooperation in space began when the first residential crew arrived aboard the International Space Station (ISS). As of November 2020, 242 astronauts, cosmonauts, and space tourists from 19 different nations have visited the space station, many of them multiple times. This list includes 152 Americans, 49 Russians, 9 Japanese, 8 Canadians, and 5 Italians.
After all, Earth is also a spaceship, flying through space with limited resources. The problems are the same – a hostile environment that you have to deal with, limited resources that you have to share, and there is a need to get along with crew members and work together to achieve your goals.Astronaut Thomas Pesquet
FAO’s Goodwill Ambassador
India had a rich tradition of astronomy and dated back to the 1st millennium of BC. Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, Varahamira, Mahendra Suri, Nilakantha Somayahi to name a few. Made pioneering contributions and displayed an understanding of the space. The country rejoiced the space travel of Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma onboard the Soyuz T-11. India, too is set to strengthen its foothold in human spaceflight with the ISROs Gaganyaan mission under the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme. Instead of flying animals into space, India proposes flying humanoid robots (Vyom Mitra’s) to have a better understanding of weightlessness and radiation do to the human body during long durations in space.
Directly or indirectly, space applications contribute to several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Space technologies help optimise crop production and make the use of land, water, seeds, fertilisers and other resources more efficient. The advances in weather prediction vow to the mastering of satellite technology.
There are treaties in place about exploring outer space. From the beginning of the Space Age, the UN recognised that outer space added a new dimension to humanity’s existence. “Magna Carta of Space “, also known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, entered into force. Philosophically it displays ignorance or arrogance of humans, presuming that they are alone and the whole universe is theirs.
Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin’s words of wisdom are so relevant today. In a hurry to achieve progress and in the name of enhancing the quality of life, humans are in a hurry to destroy the very planet on which it is inhabiting. While celebrating the 60 years of humans going into space, let us not forget that sustainable development is the need of the hour. While humans have demonstrated their landing capabilities on the moon or travelling to mars and places far away light-years, it is still struggling to remove inequalities and just development. What is demonstrated years ago is an assurance that if humans come together, it has sufficient capabilities to find solutions to the problems haunting humanity.