Alissa de Carbonnel, Edition: U.S. (April 12, 2011)
"His 108-minute flight into space 50 years ago set new a horizon for humanity and overnight turned a farmworker's son named Yuri Gagarin into one of the century's heroes.
"But half a century after his exploit captured the world's imagination and fueled a space race with the United States, Russia has found it necessary to release top secret archives to counter persistent rumors that Gagarin was later murdered on the orders of jealous or paranoid Soviet rulers.
" 'Gagarin once said: "To me my whole life seems to be one perfect moment," ' recalled veteran Soviet space journalist Vladimir Gubarev earlier this month.
"The 27-year-old's single Earth orbit on April 12, 1961 was one of the Soviet Union's most enduring Cold War victories and is proudly remembered today, especially in the cosmonaut town that is the heart of the nation's space program.
"Star City, the world's oldest space-flight training center, resembles in many ways a shrine to the first man in space, whose premature death in a mysterious plane crash seven years after his flight cemented a poster-boy status....
"...Conspiracy theories abound that he did not die in a plane crash, but was murdered on the orders of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev for an unspecified offence or disloyalty to the party.
"In an apparent bid to quash such whisperings about Gagarin's death ahead of the anniversary, the archives declassified by post-Soviet Russia last week shed new light on the crash.
"The documents show a Soviet probe concluded that Gagarin had most likely lost control of his jet after swerving sharply to avoid a weather-forecasting balloon, archives official Alexander Stepanov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying...."
The Lemming hadn't run into the 'commies killed Gagarin' story: maybe it's a European/Russian cultural thing. The Soviet-era investigation results seem a bit more plausible than the notion that a Soviet leader killed one of the international celebrities the workers' paradise produced.
Still, the conspiracy buffs probably won't be dissuaded. The willing-suspension-of-disbelief threshold seems to be set fairly high for some folks:
- "Beware Warmonger Imperialist Space Aliens!?"
(January 11, 2011)
- "Nuclear Weapons, Space Aliens, Conspiracy Theories, and Getting a Grip"
(September 24, 2010)
The Lemming remembers Sputnik, Gagarin, Glenn, and Tranquility Base. It's been an interesting half-century. A decade or so of which has been, from the Lemming's point of view, 'The Future.'
Looking around at 'The Future,' the Lemming notes that we don't have atomic toothpaste, flying cars, or cities on the Moon. Actually, flying cars have been around, off and on, as a series of prototypes and short-run production vehicles. They never took off, though. And that's another topic. (July 1, 2010) Also a horrible pun.
On the whole, though, the Lemming's rather impressed with what did get done: the emerging Information Age, from the Internet to more computers in many households than were on this continent not too long ago; a work-in-progress International Space Station; more than a half-dozen spaceports in this country, and many more around the world.
And we survived disco.
All in all, quite satisfactory.
As for 'what's next?' Entrepreneurs are jockeying for position in Earth-orbit real estate, suborbital tourist space flight isn't all that far away, and the robot spaceships have been exploring the Solar system for decades keep being joined by newer, smarter, models.
Judging by the size of the Solar system, and the galaxy we're in: folks won't run out of places to explore for quite a while.
- "Four Ships Docked at the ISS"
(February 28, 2011)
- "Humanity in Space: Looking at the Big Picture"
(January 29, 2010)
- "Bigelow Aerospace: Space to Rent or Lease, in Orbit"
(January 20, 2010)
- "ISS Space Station Walkthrough, Looking Ahead"
(October 28, 2009)
- "Space Exploration and Colonization - Impossible?! Probably Not"
(April 13, 2009)