On April 12, 1961 – a mere five decades ago – Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched aboard his Vostok-1 spacecraft, becoming the first human in space. Alone, he was the first person ever to look down upon our planet from orbit. He was only 28 years old.
Today the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of this historic event, the point in time when mankind broke free of Earth’s atmosphere and officially became a spacefaring species. Many have followed the path into space, but Yuri was the first. His actions transcended whatever political climate may have existed at the time or come afterward…in effect Yuri was, during his his brief time in space, all of us.
To commemorate this, film production company The Attic Room teamed up with the European Space Agency, NASA and YouTube to produce and distribute a movie filmed from orbit aboard the International Space Station. The beautiful footage of our planet as seen from orbit was combined with quotes from Yuri himself, and attempts to portray the route taken by Gagarin during his 108-minute trip around the Earth.
By matching the orbital path of the Space Station, as closely as possible, to that of Gagarin’s Vostok 1spaceship and filming the same vistas of the Earth through the new giant cupola window, astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and documentary film maker Christopher Riley, have captured a new digital high definition view of the Earth below, half a century after Gagarin first witnessed it.
Weaving these new views together with historic, recordings of Gagarin from the time, (subtitled in English) and an original score by composer Philip Sheppard, we have created a spellbinding film to share with people around the world on this historic anniversary.
– From the FirstOrbit.org website
The film can be viewed in its 1-hour and 39-minute entirety below, or on YouTube.
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It’s a beautiful trip around our planet, and one must remember that although most of us are familiar with the views of Earth from space, fifty years ago it was something that was very new to humans. The emotions that Gagarin must have experienced on that April day are hard to imagine…but this film does a great job at showing us the wonders that greeted him high above the planet.
I saw for the first time the earth’s shape. I could easily see the shores of continents, islands, great rivers, folds of the terrain, large bodies of water. The horizon is dark blue, smoothly turning to black. . . the feelings which filled me I can express with one word: joy.
— Yuri A. Gagarin, Life magazine, 21 April 1961.
Thanks to The Attic Room, ESA and NASA, Astronaut Paolo Nespoli and all the Expedition 26/27 crew members who helped make the film possible. And, of course, thanks to Yuri for his bravery and ability to do what no one had ever done before, and opening the path into space for the rest of humanity.
(Looking for a way to celebrate Yuri’s flight? There’s currently 486 events in 72 countries around the world in honor of Yuri’s Night! Click here for details about an event near you!)
ALSO: check out some great historic photos of Yuri and the equipment that got him into space in this National Geographic image slideshow!