A monument to Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, was unveiled at the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) Space Science Centre in Hermanus, 90 km from Cape Town, on 5 November.
The bust of the Soviet Air Forces pilot and cosmonaut, who became the first human to journey into outer space aboard Vostok 1 when he completed one orbit of Earth on 12 April 1961, is situated at the South African National Space Agency Space Science Centre, previously the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory. It is South Africa’s national geomagnetic research facility.
Donated by the “Dialogue of Cultures – United World” charity with the support of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Cape Town and SANSA, the bronze bust was unveiled by Iakov Baskakov, Acting Consul General of Russia in Cape Town.
“His feat united people around the globe in their aspiration to reach new heights,” Baskakov noted in his address. “It was a general breakthrough that combined the determination of mankind to stretch the boundaries of science and technology together with personal bravery of the individual.”
Gagarin successfully landed in the Saratov region, near the city of Engels, after 108 minutes of staying in space. Since 1961, hundreds of people of different nationalities have been into space, including South African Mark Shuttleworth who rode a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft to spend eight days onboard the International Space Station in 2002.
Since 2011, the charity has installed over 30 busts of Gagarin in a number of educational institutions, parks and streets in more than 23 countries.
“This monument reminds us we should be together in the exploration and use of space, (it) will undoubtedly serve to strengthen friendship and collaboration between Russia and South Africa in this sphere,” Baskakov said.
While there are many other monuments dedicated to Gagarin around the globe this is the first monument of its kind on the African continent and the Southernmost one in the world, SANSA said. The monument was installed within the SANSA Science Centre where it will be viewed by thousands of learners and visitors to the Space Agency. SANSA and the Consulate General hope that the monument will encourage the next generation of space explorers, scientist and engineers.
“A significant part of achieving our dream for the African continent is to inspire the youth and ignite excitement in science and technology. We are constantly looking for the future space explorers, the future space environment researchers, and the future space engineers”, highlighted SANSA MD, Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell. “Our dream is a long term one which we know cannot be achieved by our generation alone.”
“Space research and exploration is global – and while representing the African continent we also look to our international stakeholders to partner with us on an equal footing as we take on the global challenge of optimizing space utilization and inspiring the next generation.”