Kazakhstan Honors International Day of Human Space Flight

ASTANA – Kazakhstan celebrates the International Day of Human Space Flight on April 12, a commemoration established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2011. 

Gagarin’s Launchpad at Baikonur Cosmodrome. Photo credit: advantour.com

In Kazakhstan and neighboring countries, it is commonly referred to as Cosmonautics Day, celebrated since 1962. This date marks the historic flight of Yuriy Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, who launched aboard the Vostok-1 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 12, 1961, completing the first orbital flight around the Earth. 

The day holds global significance, commemorating the dawn of the space age and recognizing the pivotal role of space science and technology in advancing sustainable development and the well-being of states and peoples. It underscores the commitment to maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes. 

Since Gagarin’s first flight, around 500 people from more than 40 countries have ventured into space, including three Kazakh astronauts – Toktar Aubakirov, Talgat Mussabayev, and Aidyn Aimbetov, who collectively participated in five orbital flights. 

Toktar Aubakirov grants an interview, after touching down. Photo credit: Kuzmin Valentin/TASS Photo Chronicle

Aubakirov, the first Kazakh astronaut, embarked on his space journey in 1991, spending seven days, 22 hours, and 13 minutes in space. During his mission, he was also one of the first to sample freeze-dried dishes of Kazakh cuisine, part of an experiment developed by scientists. 

Mussabayev completed three space flights totaling 341 days and more than nine hours. This year marks the 30th anniversary of his first flight, during which he spent 126 days aboard the station. 

Talgat Mussabayev during his space mission. Photo credit: gctc.ru

In 1998, he led an international space crew as commander and set a record for spacewalk duration.  During his third spaceflight in 2001, he accompanied the first space tourist, Denis Tito, marking the beginning of space tourism. 

Aimbetov flew as a flight engineer-2 in 2015, completing the country’s fifth space program and conducting scientific experiments during his nine-day mission. 

In one of his interviews, Aimbetov reflected on his experience during the spaceflight, emphasizing the breathtaking view of the Earth from a distance of 450 kilometers.

Aidyn Aimbetov, the third Kazakh astronaut who flew as a flight engineer-2 in 2015. Photo credit: zakon.kz

“In the vast darkness of space, it appears as a blue pearl of life,” he said. “Upon returning to the ground and opening the hatch of the descent module, the space becomes filled with the scent of steppe air, which often goes unnoticed on Earth. The familiar scents, sounds, and sensations of nature envelop you.”

This day carries special meaning for Kazakhstan, as it also commemorates the Baikonur Cosmodrome’s role as a launch site for numerous space missions.

It also coincides with Science Workers’ Day, honoring those involved in space research. Kazakhstan remains committed to peaceful space exploration, facilitating international cooperation through initiatives launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Zhezkazgan, near the cosmodrome, serves as a vital site for welcoming returning cosmonauts.

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