Moscow, Russia (RIA Novosti) Apr 13, 2011
President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday awarded state honors to some of Russia's most senior cosmonauts as Russia is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight.
Fifty years ago, the Soviet Union became the first country to put a man into space when Yury Gagarin orbited Earth in 108 minutes in a Vostok-1 capsule.
Cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka, Mikhail Korniyenko and Alexander Skvortsov, crewmembers of the last two expeditions to the International Space Station (ISS), were awarded the title of Hero of Russia, the country's highest decoration.
Cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Fyodor Yurchikhin, who also traveled to the ISS, were awarded the Order of Merit for the Fatherland.
Several veteran Soviet cosmonauts including Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, were given the prestigious Order of Friendship.
Fifty-one space experts from 15 countries were also awarded honors recognizing their contribution to space science.
Cultural events in Moscow to mark the 50th anniversary of the first manned spaceflight will include a 50-gun salute, officials say.
Medvedev has described Gagarin's flight as a "revolutionary event" that changed the world.
Gagarin remains a national hero throughout the former Soviet Union: an impossible dream, a country boy with a winsome smile who instantly became the most famous man on Earth when he orbited the planet 50 years ago.
The first manned space flight remains a landmark for humankind, he said in an interview with China Central Television CCTV.
"I believe it was a truly revolutionary event, a highly symbolic one," Medvedev said. "It was a tremendous achievement of Soviet cosmonautics, which divided the world into 'before' and 'after the flight,' what has been termed the 'space era.'"
"I am proud of the fact that it was my country that made this first step," he said.
On the subject of future space programs, Medvedev said although they have become less idealistic and more pragmatic, the Russian space dream lives on.
"We still cherish a hope, however, that sometime we will be able to conquer other planets, other stellar systems."
"I don't know how soon we will be able to achieve that, but I think that mankind will always try to follow these two approaches simultaneously - on the one hand, the dream of exploring outer space, and, on the other hand, a truly pragmatic approach to outer space, which may bring both scientific and practical benefits."
Source: RIA Novosti
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