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Yuri Gagarin Lecture: A celebration of manned space flight - past, present and future

Dr Christopher Riley

This lecture, celebrating 50 years of manned space flight looks at the past, present and future plans and possibilities and the 'Gagarin Effect'

06 April 2011  Transport channel

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On 12 April 1961 the Vostok 1 mission launched Yuri Gagarin on the first ever human spaceflight. Gagarin's flight lasted only 108 minutes, but its impact was immense, leading - ultimately - to such achievements as the Apollo missions to the Moon, the Space Shuttle, and the Mir and International space stations.

As a result of these, in the 21st century new endeavours in human spaceflight are under development, for example private space travel, commercial space transportation and, in the longer term, maybe human exploration of the solar system.

This lecture, celebrating 50 years of manned space flight looks at the past, present and future plans and possibilities.

Although these amazing scientific and technical achievements purely were undoubtedly spurred on by the original competition between the two space powers of the era, the USA and the then-USSR, there is another, more human, story to be told, that of the 'Gagarin Effect'.

When Yuri Gagarin returned safely from space he travelled the world promoting the USSR, its scientific and technological achievements and the myriad future possibilities for space travel. Arguably more important, though, is the inspirational effect that Gagarin had. He became a global celebrity overnight and wherever he went huge crowds of people would throng the streets to see this man who, for them, personified the best in humanity and its curiosity and drive to explore. Some of these people were children and, for some of them, the Gagarin Effect was to inspire them through the rest of their lives, either directly or indirectly.


Dr Christopher Riley

Dr Christopher Riley is a broadcaster and film maker specialising in history and science documentaries. He has worked on many of the BBC's iconic science programmes from Tomorrow's World and Rough Science to Science in Action and the Sky at Night. In 2004 he won the Sir Arthur Clarke award for his work producing the BBC One blockbuster series Space Odyssey: voyage to the planets. His feature documentary film In the Shadow of the Moon, the story of the Apollo astronauts, premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Audience Award.

Chris was a pioneer of web journalism, reporting for the BBC's first online news service in 1996 and producing and presenting the corporations first live webcast - covering Africa's total eclipse in 2001. He continues to work at the forefront of the communications revolution as the founder and managing director of a new media production company called the attic room and the online film archive footage vault.

He is the author of more than thirty articles and books on astronomy and planetary science and regularly broadcasts and lectures on these and other topics. His latest book; Apollo 11, an owners manual, was published by Haynes, in June of 2009, making it into Amazon's top ten science and nature books of the year. He is the executive producer of BBC FOUR's forthcoming documentary Destination Titan, and the producer and director of the novel Yuri Gagarin 50th Anniversary film project First Orbit, launched in March 2011.

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