First man in space will be celebrated with new statue this July

Yuri Gagarin to be commemorated with London statue

The first man to go into space will be celebrated with a new statue marking the 50th anniversary of manned space flight.

The Yuri Gagarin memorial, a gift from the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) to the British Council, will be situated on the Mall, opposite the statue of Captain Cook and outside the British Council offices headquarters, this July.

"Gagarin belongs not only to Russia but to all countries and nations," said Vitaly Davydov, state secretary and deputy head of Roscosmos.

"It’s important to us that the statue of Yuri Gagarin will be shown in London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first manned spaceflight."

Yuri Gagarin was just 27 when he journeyed into space on board Vostok 1, orbiting the earth in just 108 minutes in his space capsule.

"Everyone was moved by the sheer bravery and adventure of Gagarin's flight and through this statue we celebrate both that break-through for mankind, and the UK-Russian relationship," said Vernon Ellis, chair of the British Council.

The statue is an exhibition copy of the original statue commissioned in 1984 to commemorate Gagarin's 50th birthday, by the small town of Lubertsy, just outside Moscow.

Cosmonauts travelling into space visit the statue as a site of pilgrimage before their journey.

The statue of Gagarin, who died in a plane crash at 34, will be formally unveiled by the cosmonaut’s daughter, Elena Gagarina, now director of the Kremlin Museums, and will be in place for 12 months.

Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space; Sergei Krikalev, the cosmonaut-Director of Star City; and Natalia Koroleva, daughter of Sergei Korolev, the ‘Chief Designer’ of the Soviet space programme, will also attend the unveiling.

"We have a strong record of collaboration with Russia in space science," said Universities and Science minister David Willetts.

"This statue is a particularly fitting emblem of both that history and the commitment to future work put in place through the UK Russia Year of Space, and I’m delighted it is coming to London."

An exhibition at the British Council headquarters will also take place on the life of Gagarin and the early Soviet space programme.

The IET is hosting a Yuri Gagarin lecture on April 12 to celebrate 50 years of manned space flight, hosted by Dr Chris Welch of the International Space University.

Guest speakers include Dr David Williams, CEO of the UK Space Agency; Dr Christopher Riley, broadcaster and film maker; and John Zarnecki, Professor of Space Science at the Open University.

Further reading

Read more about the flight and plight of Yuri Gagarin

Find out more about the IET Yuri Gagarin lecture

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