To all the pioneers–??????? (that’s thank you if you didn’t know!)

Forget politics, budgets, priorities, ethics, religion, race – put them all to one side for now and just think for a moment. Fifty years ago today the human race took flight and left the earths atmosphere for 108 minutes.

Major Yuri Gagarin from the USSR climbed aboard Vostok 1 and left Baikonur Cosmodrome Site No.1  in what is now Kazakhstan and headed out to become the first human to go into space.

It’s remarkable, humbling, amazing, outstanding and mind-blowing. The human spirit for adventure, for exploration, for pioneering never ceases to amaze me (and yes, I know there are cynics who will say that this was just about the US and the USSR trying to outdo each other) – we’ve seen it throughout all of history, let’s face it we wouldn’t be where we are today without pioneers. We see it all the time with people pushing boundaries and trying to do more, be more, find more, go further and understand more.

The Russians made it into space first, the USA made it to the moon and then the motivation and the drive to take us forward got lost. The US lost interest in moon landings and started to see how much it was costing, the Russians had lost the ultimate race and had money concerns of their own along with the struggle to match the western world for weaponry in the cold war.

Yeah, we’ve built the International Space Station and we’ve sent probes to the furthest reaches of our solar system as well as to the inner heart. But where has the passion gone, where is that adventurous spirit wanting to go further and see more?

You have to wonder what would have happened if the Russians had made it to the moon first. It’s not that far fetched, they were close, but if they had done it the Americans would have had to respond. Then it would have been a race for the first Lunar Colony. Technology would have been pushed forward in unbelievable ways as the need for it grew.

Moonbase Alpha would not have just been the provinces of cheesy 1970s TV (although hopefully the lunar catastrophe within the series would have been) but we would have colonies – and after the moon it would have been Mars next and then who knows what.

You might think I’m being fanciful, but being a realist can you honestly see the USA sitting on their backsides if the USSR got to the moon first?

I know you can’t ignore the big issues such as the expense of space exploration when we have such poverty etc, but there’s a huge part of being human that pushes boundaries and takes things forwards and when I see the last flight of the shuttle and plans for future projects being scrapped – it saddens me.

I love space. It’s always fascinated me and I love looking at the images that Hubble has returned. I love the idea of us reaching out to the stars and seeing all the splendour and magnificence that lies out there.

Hopefully we’ll come out of this global economic meltdown and there will be businessmen and women who feel the same way and choose to invest in seeing the wonders of the universe. Until then – why not spend some time reliving that first monumental flight.





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