From Yuri Gagarin’s launch to today, human spaceflight has always been political

When cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space, he also became an instant celebrity, a diplomatic icon of the Soviet Union around the world.

Gagarin blasted off Earth 60 years ago on Monday (April 12), kicking off the era of human spaceflight. Rooted in the Cold War, human spaceflight was, at the time, inherently about the perception of power and prestige — and it remains so today, although the nuances of international relationships at play have changed just as much as the technological ones.


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