YuriGagarin50 launch press release

10th June 2010
For Immediate Release


IMG_2067YuriGagarin50, a campaign to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight and the achievements of UK and Russian spaceflight over the past 50 years, was launched today by Dr Helen Sharman OBE at the House of Commons.

Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space and first person to orbit the Earth on 12 April 1961. YuriGagarin50 aims to encourage activities around the anniversary on 12 April 2011 and raise awareness of the legacy of Gagarin’s flight.

“Space is an inspirational subject and human spaceflight in particular has motivated many young people to follow careers in science and engineering. Gagarin’s legacy touches many areas of our lives today; many people are unaware of how many applications space has in modern life and the important contribution space makes to the UK economy. In particular, space plays a vital role in the environmental monitoring of our planet. Yuri Gagarin was the first person to see the Earth from space and was struck by its beauty, its fragility and humanity’s duty to protect it,” said Dr Chris Welch, Chair of YuriGagarin50.

Dr Helen Sharman, who became Britain’s first astronaut when she spent 7 days on the Mir Space Station in 1991, said “Yuri Gagarin was given the international crown for inspiration. Wherever he went, crowds of people thronged the streets to catch a glimpse of the person who embodied the abilities of fellow humans, the bravery of exploration, and the desire to discover what is new. On my last night in space, reflecting on my time, I realised that being away from Earth reinforced what my Russian friends had told me on the ground – what’s important is personal relationships and what people can do together. Space is grand and being part of it makes people feel grand.”

Stephen McPartland MP, said “The space sector is very important in the UK, providing 70 000 jobs. It has constantly outstripped the rest of the economy for more than a decade. Space technology is the highest skilled sector in manufacturing. I believe that we can use space as an inspirational tool to drive ourselves out of recession.”
Six of the UK’s young ‘future space stars’ spoke about how had space inspired them and their vision for the UK’s future involvement in space. Ruth Pearson, who will begin a PhD in cosmology at the University of Sussex in September said, “I am inspired by the way countries cooperate in space and I believe that this type of collaboration in science can help us solve many of the humanitarian problems we face.”

Morgan Evans, aged 9, said, “I don’t think that I am brave enough to travel into space on a real rocket but it is exciting to find out about space from scientists and astronauts.”

The YuriGagarin50 website, www.yurigagarin50.org, has a searchable calendar of events planned to celebrate the anniversary, which include exhibitions, talks, hands on activities and other events. As the site develops in the run up to the anniversary, further information will be included on Yuri Gagarin, his visit to the UK in July 1961 and current space activities in the UK and Russia.

Dr Welch also announced the ‘Rockets for Yuri’ initiative today, which will encourage the public to take part in a mass launching of air and water-powered rockets at locations across the UK at 12pm on 12th April 2011 to celebrate Gagarin’s flight.

Read Helen Sharman's speech in full

Read a poem by Matt Henderson on how has space inspired him.


Dr Chris Welch
Chair of YuriGagarin50
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Anita Heward
Manager/Press Officer
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Tel: +44 7756 034243

On 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin made the first human flight in space. 12 April 2011 will be the 50th anniversary of this event. This is a notable anniversary in its own right but also offers a significant opportunity to raise the profile of space in the UK.

Although this anniversary has clear significance for human spaceflight, it also offers an excellent opportunity to focus attention on many other space and space-related activities and showcase the UK’s achievements and expertise in these areas. General interest in astronauts is high and is used frequently as powerful tool for education, outreach and public engagement.

In 2011, Gagarin’s role as the first human in space and the fact of the 50th anniversary of his flight will provide a very strong ‘Gagarin hook’ to capture attention which can be subsequently directed in other directions to the benefit of the wider UK space community. YuriGagarin50 will provide a single overarching framework to stimulate and facilitate events and activities throughout the UK which will be arranged and organised by different groups and organisations and matched to local needs and resources.

The aims of YuriGagarin50 are to:
1) Showcase UK and Russian achievements in space science, technology and engineering, highlighting the benefits that these bring.
2) Excite and engage the general public with space and the advancements derived from it, using Gagarin’s flight as the catalyst.
3) Nurture and encourage the next generation of students in STEM subjects to support the UK’s future in science and technology.
4) Promote sustainable collaboration between the UK and Russia in science, technology and culture.
5) Stimulate celebration and recognition of the global significance of Gagarin and his flight - 'the first person in space, the first person to see the Earth as a planet'.

YuriGagarin50 is supported by the UK Space Agency, the Space Education Trust, Whiteshirt Communications, the Planetary Society and FootageVault.



Edward Davey MP - Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs.
Edward Davey MP talking to Morgan Evans and Oli Owens. Credit:Q.Stanley/YuruGagarin50.org
L to R - Helen Sharman, Stephen McPartland MP, Chris Welch. Credit:Q.Stanley/YuriGagarin50.org
Stephen McPartland MP. Credit:Q.Stanley/YuriGagarin50.org
L to R - Morgan Evans, Helen Sharman, Oli Owens. Credit:Q.Stanley/YuriGagarin50.org
L to R - Stephen McPartland MP, Allan Clements, Morgan Evans, Helen Sharman, Oli Owens. Credit:Q.Stanley/YuriGagarin50.org
PHillip Lee - Helen Sharman
L to R - Phillip Lee MP, Helen Sharman OBE
Prof.Heinz Wolff - YuriGagarin50 advocate Credit:Q.Stanley/YuriGagarin50.org
L to R - Chris Brumskill, Helen Sharman, Adam Lambert. Credit:Q.Stanley/YuriGagarin50.org

YuriGagarin50.org is a portal celebrating Yuri Gagarin's flight into space. | login