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12 April 2024, 09:00

Belarus marks International Day of Human Space Flight 

MINSK, 12 April (BelTA) – Every year 12 April is celebrated as the International Day of Human Space Flight. On this day,  12 April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into space. This historic event opened the way for space exploration. 

Yuri Gagarin's flight lasted 108 minutes. Having completed one orbit on Earth, the cosmonaut received a command to descend. The descending capsule landed in the steppe near Saratov. Yuri Gagarin ejected at an altitude of several kilometers and safely landed using a parachute. The world's first cosmonaut was awarded the of Hero of the Soviet Union title on 14 April 1961.

In April 1962 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR established a new holiday, Cosmonautics Day, to commemorate this historic event. In 1968 it received an international status and was renamed into World Aviation and Astronautics Day. The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution of 7 April 2011, declared 12 April as the International Day of Human Space Flight “to celebrate each year at the international level the beginning of the space era for mankind”. Belarus was involved in space exploration from day one. The first space research programs  were launched in Belarus in the early 1960s. The country's research centers and industrial enterprises were involved in the development and production of advanced optical instruments, ground-based missile launch control systems, and programs for processing space images.

All in all, four natives of Belarus have traveled to space. Pyotr Klimuk made his first flight into space in December 1973 as commander of the Soyuz 13 spacecraft. He made three space flights with a total duration of 78 days. Vladimir Kovalenok was in space three times, spending a total of 216 days there, including more than two hours in outer space. During his first flight cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky led the main crew flying to the International Space Station (ISS) on 23 October 2012. During his second space flight on 17 November 2016 he unfurled the Belarusian flag on board the ISS and took photographs of Minsk and other cities of Belarus from space. Oleg Novitsky has made four spaceflights and spent a combined total of 545 days in space across the four missions. In December 2021, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko awarded Oleg Novitsky the Order of Friendship of Peoples.

On 23 March 2024, the first cosmonaut in the history of sovereign Belarus, Marina Vasilevskaya, went into space. She flew to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome as part of the prime crew of Visiting Expedition 21.

The crew also included pilot-cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky and flight engineer and NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson. The flight lasted 14 days, of which 12 days were on the Russian segment of the ISS. Marina Vasilevskaya carried out a research program that had been developed by the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus together with Roscosmos and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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