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Fifty Years Of Human Spaceflight – BBC World Service examines The Yuri Gagarin Legacy


To mark the 50-year anniversary of the first human to journey into space, BBC World Service broadcasts an hour-long special on Monday 11 April, from 7pm GMT. Travelling back to the historic events of 1961, the programme features those that knew Gagarin and examine the legacy and global impact of this first human spaceflight.

In the first part of this 60-minute special, presenter Richard Hollingham relives the momentous events of 12 April 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space and to orbit the Earth.

Through archive recordings and the memories of people who met Gagarin, or whose lives were changed by his journey, Richard builds up a picture of the life and untimely death of the first cosmonaut. He also examines the risky technology that propelled him into space, and the impact this first spaceflight had around the world.

Reporter Katia Moskvitch visits the village where Yuri Gagarin was born and the city where he grew up, which now bears his name. She meets one of his school teachers and his niece, Tamara Filatova, who remembers him well and who now runs a museum dedicated to his memory.

The second part of this programme examines the history, legacy and future of the Soviet and now Russian space programme, from the collapse of the Soviet Union through to its recent explorations to deliver cargo and crew to the International Space Station.

Hollingham reviews recent successes and asks a panel of experts what the next 50 years might hold for the Russian space programme. The panel includes European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne, who has commanded the International Space Station; Yuri Karash, a Moscow-based commentator on the Russian space programme, Dr Iya Whitely, a psychologist at University College London, the European Astronaut Centre and the University of Bath; and, from his home in the US state of Maryland, Roald Sagdeev, the former head of the Soviet Space Science Institute.

The final part of this programme features a special edition of BBC World Service’s history programme, Witness, which goes back to 12 April 1961 to relive events on the day that Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, revealing that secrecy was so tight that even his niece didn’t know her uncle had been selected until the mission was under way.


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