Today, we inaugurate the “Russian Public and Professional Holidays” section of “Dividing My Time.”April 12th is The Day of Aviation and Cosmonauts.
*Photo credit: Henrietta Challinor
Per ardua ad astra, or “through adversity to the stars” was carved in faux Gothic lettering over the elevator up to the boys dorm at the prep school I attended (and this is a singular example of that school not taking itself a leeetle bit too seriously) and it
During my misspent youth, I worked as a tour guide in Russia, and my tourists were often quite taken aback to learn that, although America was the first to put a man on the moon, Russia was the first to put a man in space, which significantly ramped up the space race.
On April 12, 1961, Yurii Gagarin became the first person to travel in Space in Vostok 1 to massive elation back in the USSR. We should also recall the contributions of Laika, the first dog in space, and the first woman in space, Russian Valentina Tereshkova.
There are lots of monumental commemorations to this striving for the stars in Russia: the largest of which is “The Monument to the Conquerors of Space” in Moscow. Pictured here, the main part of the 350-foot monument is a massive obelisk sculpted in the shape of a rocket, launched dynamically into space with its smoke tail. The titanium plates, which coat the construction, shimmer in the day. The monument was the most common view I had as a tour guide, living at the Cosmos Hotel during my Moscow stays, and we often met dubious individuals behind the monument to pick up Bolshoi ballet tickets, caviar and military watches: the Holy Trinity of mid-1980s Russian tourism. The Cosmos, which boasted restaurants called things like “Galactica” and “Evening Cosmos” and was one of the most rump-sprung awful fleabag places I’ve ever spent time in, but it was the epicenter of the tourism world. HRH and I spent most of our courtship there, and I worry that emotion will overtake him and he’ll book a room for the nostalgia factor. But, knowing HRH’s complete inability to plan this kind of thing, it seems unlikely.
Today, Russia is a big player in the International Space Station, and has pioneered space tourism for very wealthy individuals. “Space,” as President Dmitry Medvedev said today, “remains a priority.”
Congratulations to everyone in the Air and Space industries.
*Photo credits to Henrietta Challinor, who captures beautiful images of Russia and can be reached here while her website is finalized. I look forward to showcasing more of Henrietta’s work here!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. It means a lot to me, as does your feed back. Do you have a Russian Air or Space experience you'd like to share? Do you remember April 12, 1961, or did you score Bolshoi Theatre tickets behind the Monument to the Conquerorers of Space? Whatever your input, I'd love to read it. Leave a comment by clicking on the comment button below.