Russia is celebrating its annual Cosmonautics Day on Thursday to mark 57th anniversary of the first human spaceflight.
Aboard the spacecraft Vostok-1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human being to journey into outer space on April 12, 1961.
The day was also declared the “International Day of Human Space Flights” by the United Nations General Assembly on April 7, 2011 to celebrate each year the beginning of the space era for mankind.
Since 1961, Russian cosmonauts have made more than 3,500 flights into space, as of January 2018, according to data published by the Russian State Museum of Cosmonautics.
“Russia is the undisputed leader in manned space exploration and space launches, despite the enormous difficulties that the country faced after the collapse of the Soviet Union”, Igor Buslov, a retired colonel of the Russian Aerospace Forces who participated in space exploration programs for many years, told Anadolu Agency.
Russia also maintains parity with the United States in the field of space navigation, Buslov said, adding the Russian global navigation system — GLONASS — is one of the only two full-fledged global navigation systems in the world, along with American GPS.
“The first ever spacewalk was made on March 18, 1965 by Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov, who flew on the spacecraft Voskhod-2 together with Pavel Belyaev,” he said, adding Svetlana Savitskaya, was the first woman to walk in space on July 25, 1984.
In 1990s to 2000s the Russian space program went through a difficult period, Ivan Maystrenko, who has headed one of the space development laboratories for many years, told Anadolu Agency.
“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia lost its main cosmodrome Baikonur [in Kazakhstan]. The Russian Federation and the president of Kazakhstan reached an agreement on its lease, but to ensure fully independent access to space, Russia had to build a new cosmodrome – Vostochny. Its construction ended in April 2016. However, its navigation systems are still in the process of setup, so most launches are still carried out with Baikonur,” he said.
At the moment, Russia is among the three leaders in the number of missile launches, Maystrenko said, adding that Russia is also the only one of the 15 countries participating in the International Space Station that deals with its completion and expansion.
“Only Russia and the United States are able to put a person into orbit. Also, only three countries — Russia, the United States and China — are currently capable of producing spacesuits for work in outer space,” the expert noted.
The main tasks set by the Russian space industry at the moment are to finish off the Vostochny cosmodrome, to debug navigation systems, to increase the number of satellites in orbit, and to develop a system of ground control points for spacecraft, Maystrenko concluded.