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1961 First Man in Space 50th Anniversary Special

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 11 April 2011

This Peter Snow Random Edition Special, marking the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first manned spaceflight, brings alive the Daily Telegraph for April 13th 1961. The highlight is an interview with Yuri Gagarin's daughter, Yelena Gagarina, specially recorded for the programme in Moscow.

Gagarina talks about how her father hugely regretted that his experience in space was over so fast. he wanted to experience space again but it proved impossible. Random Edition visits the National Space Centre in Leicester, where Peter Snow enters a mock-up of Gagarin's Vostok 1 spacecraft and inspects a soviet-made space suit for a dog.

Among the contributors to the programme are astronomers Sir Bernard Lovell and Sir Patrick Moore. In 1961 Lovell was establishing Jodrell Bank as one of the world's great centres for space research. Now 97, he reflects on his confidence shown in this 1961 Daily Telegraph that Russia would be first to the moon. Lovell also talks of his role in the use of Jodrell Bank as an early warning indicator of a soviet missile attack on Britain. He talks of his belief that he was lucky to survive his visits to moscow in this period.

This Special Random Edition also brings alive the newspaper's reporting of wild celebrations in Russia at the news of Gagarin's flight. in 1961, Olga Selivanova was living in the caucasus. she recalls hearing the news on the sole tv set left on the shelves of her local department store. The Daily Telegraph shows the British Government congratulating Russia on the space flight, but the authorities were reluctant to host Gagarin on his international PR tour later in 1961...until he accepted an invitation to visit a foundrymen's union in Manchester. We hear from a Mancunian who cine-filmed Gagarin's arrival at Ringway Airport.

Producer: Andrew Green
An Andrew Green production for BBC Radio 4.


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