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By 12 April 2011 | Categories: news

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Googlers may have noticed it already, thanks to an awesome logo redesign, but for those not in the loop, today marks the 50th anniversary of humanity's first foray to the stars.

On the 12th of April 1961 Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in present day Kazakhstan. Travelling aboard the pioneering Vostok 1 spacecraft he orbited the earth once in a world-changing 108-minute flight.

After re-entry Gagarin was ejected from the spacecraft and proceeded to parachute down to earth where he was met by some very confused farmers. Gagarin later recalled, “When they saw me in my space suit and the parachute dragging alongside as I walked, they started to back away in fear. I told them, don't be afraid, I am a Soviet like you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!”.

After the historic flight Gagarin became an international celebrity, being awarded numerous medals and achievements, although he would never fly to space again. Gagarin tragically died at the age of 34 when his MiG-15 jet crashed while on a routine training flight.

Since Gagarin and Vostok 1 took humanity's first tentative steps into the cosmos many have followed, with the Soyuz and Space Shuttle missions ferrying hundreds of astronauts and cosmonauts alike into space. In the last 50 years we have sent robotic explorers to the farthest reaches of our solar system, mapped huge swaths of the observable universe and have jointly constructed permanently manned space stations in earth orbit. The question now is simply: what's next? 
 

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