Russians have begun a series of celebrations to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first ever manned space flight.
Officials in Moscow invited schoolchildren to take part, eager to keep the enthusiasm for Russian space exploration alive.
Gagarin’s flight in Vostok-1 put the Soviet Union ahead of the USA in the Cold War space race.
His diminutive frame was shoe-horned into the capsule just two metres across. It took 108 minutes to orbit the earth travelling at 27,400 kilometres per hour.
When he returned to the planet he had been watching from above, the 27 year old was the most famous man on it. The Soviet leadership hailed Gagarin a national hero.
Yuri Gagarin never flew in space again. He died at an air base seven years later in a plane crash that is still shrouded in mystery.