Celebratory fireworks in Moscow
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Pillinger: 'It was a race' to get the first man in space

Russia has marked the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

President Dmitry Medvedev told the nation, "We were first into space, we have a huge number of achievements, we don't want to lose our advantage".

The event was marked by ceremonies and a 50-gun salute in Moscow.

Professor Colin Pillinger, who was part of NASA's Apollo space programme, explains why Gagarin's flight was such a momentous occasion.

  • 12 Apr 2011
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