Cosmonautics Day (Russian: День Космона́втики, Den Kosmonavtiki) is an anniversary celebrated in Russia and some other former USSR countries on 12 April. In Poland an "International Day of Aviation and Cosmonautics" (Polish: Międzynarodowy Dzień Lotnictwa i Kosmonautyki) is celebrated on the same day. In 2011, 12 April was declared as the International Day of Human Space Flight in dedication of the first manned space flight made on 12 April 1961 by the 27-year-old Russian Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Gagarin circled the Earth for 1 hour and 48 minutes aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft.
The commemorative day was established in the Soviet Union one year later, on 9 April 1962. In modern Russia, it is celebrated in accordance with Article 1.1 of the Law "On the Days of Military Glory and the Commemorative Dates in Russia".
Gagarin's flight was a triumph for the Soviet space program, and opened a new era in the history of space exploration. Gagarin became a national hero of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc and a famous figure around the world. Major newspapers around the globe published his biography and details of his flight. Moscow and other cities in the USSR held mass demonstrations, the scale of which was second only to World War II Victory Parades. Gagarin was escorted in a long motorcade of high-ranking officials through the streets of Moscow to the Kremlin where, in a lavish ceremony, he was awarded the highest Soviet honour, the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Nowadays the commemoration ceremony on Cosmonautics Day starts in the city of Korolyov, near Gagarin's statue. Participants then proceed under police escort to Red Square for a visit to Gagarin's grave in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, and continue to Cosmonauts Alley, near the Monument to the Conquerors of Space. Finally, the festivities are concluded with a visit to the Novodevichy Cemetery.
On 12 April 1981, exactly 20 years after Vostok 1, a Space Shuttle (STS-1, Columbia) was launched for the first orbital flight, although this was a coincidence as the launch of STS-1 had been delayed for two days.
In the 1960s the song 14 минут до старта ("14 minutes until the launch") written by Oscar Feltsman and Vladimir Voynovich was considered the unofficial "anthem of cosmonautics" and regularly aired on this day in the USSR. In the 1980s it was eclipsed by the hit Trava u doma ("Grass at home") performed by the Russian VIA band Zemlyane ("The Earthlings"). The latter song was awarded the official status of the anthem of Russian Cosmonautics in 2010. Russian cosmonauts have traditionally taken this song with them getting assigned for orbital deployments.
On April 12, 2017, the United Nations commemorated the "International Day of Human Space Flight" to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the first human space flight, which ushered in the beginning of the space era for mankind.
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Fireworks in Moscow to the 50th Anniversary of spaceflight in 2011